The AP reports this week that The Gambian President Yahya Jammeh signed into law a bill that raises the criminal penalties for homosexual acts, including life sentences for a variety of charges.
The bill criminalizes “aggravated homosexuality,” which encompasses a wide variety of behaviors and also targets certain individuals, like those living with HIV. Among those who would be in violation are “serial offenders” — in other words, anybody who’s simply having gay sex with any frequency. Having gay sex with anyone under the age 18, anyone with a disability, or anyone who has been drugged also constitutes an “aggravated homosexuality” charge, which would allow for a life sentence in prison.
Jammeh apparently signed the bill into law on October 9, but government officials have not actually notified the country that it’s now law, even though it’s also already being enforced. According to Amnesty International, the government has already arrested at least eight people, including a 17-year-old boy, on suspicion of “homosexuality.” They were not officially charged, but were tortured while in custody to make them confess their “crimes” and out others who might be gay. They were also threatened with anal and vaginal probes to somehow “test” their sexual orientation.
Earlier this year, Jammeh said of anyone who might seek asylum in other countries because they’re afraid of how they’ll be treated for being gay, “If I catch them I will kill them.”