Gambian lawmakers have approved a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.”
The Associated Press on Monday reported members of the Gambia National Assembly last month approved the measure that would apply to people living with HIV/AIDS and cases where a person engages in same-sex sexual acts with someone who is younger than 18, disabled or has been drugged.
Amnesty International said in a press release that lawmakers in the West African country passed the bill on Aug. 25.
The Associated Press said the bill’s “aggravated homosexuality” provision would also apply if the suspect is a parent or guardian of the person with whom they are accused of having same-sex sexual contact or is in a position of “authority over” them. The news agency further reported the measure is nearly identical to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act the country’s Constitutional Court overturned last month on a technicality.
“This bill is part of the rising tide of homophobia in many African nations, whose government leaders are working to deny the rights of their LGBT citizens through a campaign of misinformation and discriminatory laws and policies,” said Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First, a Washington-based organization that advocates for LGBT rights around the world.
The Human Rights Campaign also criticized the measure.
Gambia is among the dozens of African countries in which consensual same-sex sexual acts remain criminalized.
Advocates in Africa and around the world have repeatedly criticized Gambian President Yahya Jammeh over virulently anti-LGBT comments he has made over the last year.
Jammeh said during a 2013 speech at the U.N. General Assembly that homosexuality is among the three “biggest threats to human existence.”
He described gay men as “vermin” during a February speech that commemorated his country’s independence from the U.K. Jammeh also said the acronym LGBT “can only stand for leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence.”
President Obama last month faced criticism after he invited Jammeh and other anti-LGBT African heads of state to the White House during a D.C. summit.
Singer Erykah Badu’s decision to perform at a Gambian music festival in May sparked outrage among LGBT and human rights advocates. She ultimately did not attend the event that Jammeh formally opened.
Jammeh has 30 days from when lawmakers passed the measure to either sign it or return it to the Gambia National Assembly for further consideration.
“President Jammeh should not approve this profoundly damaging act that violates international human rights law,” said Stephen Cockburn of Amnesty International. “Gambia’s National Assembly and the president should not endorse state-sponsored homophobia.”