Press release

Gabon: Freedom House Welcomes Decriminalization of Same-sex Relations

Legal recognition of LGBT+ rights is imperative for a free and democratic society.

In response to Gabon decriminalizing homosexuality, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We welcome Gabon’s reversal of a law criminalizing same-sex relations,” said Mindy Michels, director of the Emergency Assistance Program at Freedom House. “Legal recognition of LGBT+ rights is imperative for a free and democratic society. Overturning the 2019 law—which carried a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and a 5 million Central African CFA franc fine for same-sex relations—corrects an injustice imposed upon the LGBT+ community last year. Gabon should maintain and expand its commitment to allowing its citizens to live in freedom, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Background:

In 2019, Gabon became one of the 73 countries and jurisdictions to make same-sex relations illegal (unlike many other countries on the continent, Gabon did not have a colonial-era ban). In 2008, Gabon was one of only six African countries to sign a nonbinding UN declaration calling for the global decriminalization of homosexuality. But three years later Gabon voted against the historic UN resolution condemning acts of violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people.

On June 29, 2020, Gabon’s Senate voted 59 to 17 in favor of decriminalizing same-sex relations (four senators abstained, in the closed-door session). President Ali Bongo signed the bill on July 7. Notably, Bongo’s wife supported the legislation, arguing that the ability to love freely without being condemned is a fundamental human right.

Gabon is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020.