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Opinion: Homosexuality in Gambia
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Opinion: Homosexuality in Gambia

I find it quite inconceivable that homosexuality is still illegal in The Gambia. Now wait, before you stop reading due to your religious beliefs or other reasons, I plead with you to continue reading, grant me the opportunity to get my point across.

How would you feel if someone decided to punish you for being black or white? I assume you would deem it unjust or unfair because by any means, it is no fault of yours that you are of a particular race. It's your genetics that determined whether you were born black, white or another race for that matter. This, without any discrepancy, is how being homosexual is treated.

Scientists have authentic evidence to suggest that Human beings are born gay. Yes, people are born being attracted to the same-sex. Scientific America, a prestigious and trustworthy American magazine, claimed that "[a] study, conducted by scientists at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, [offered] compelling, cross-cultural evidence that common genetic factors underlie same-sex, sexual preferences".

Virtually all prestigious scientific organizations have agreed that same-sex sexual orientation is in fact based on genetics. It should not matter whether people "chose" to be gay or not, in my view, but given the scientific evidence, why do we persist on persecuting these individuals based on something they did not have any say in. 

In section 144 of our criminal code, homosexuality is referred "an unnatural act", this is as I already have and will establish, has been scientifically proven to be utter nonsense. But why does this unjust and homophobic law still continue to exist till today? Why does this country have a problem with two consenting adults being sexually attracted to each other even though they pose no harm to anyone else?

Religion is by far the biggest and in opinion the only opponent of homosexuality. Our Gambian society is very indoctrinated by religion. People tend to use religion as an argument to ostracize homosexuals. Even our former despot, Yahya Jammeh, used religion as a justification for his inhumane and outright disgusting attitudes towards homosexuals. From a religious perspective, the argument is usually along the lines of "both Islam and Christianity claim that being homosexuality is a sin, therefore it should be illegal". There are limitless flaws to this argument. Firstly, alcohol is a sin, it is still legal, gambling is a sin, it is still legal, interest or usury is a sin, it, too, is still legal. This is because The Gambia is not a theocracy; it is a democratic republic and a secular state.

The state is not and should not be affiliated with any particular religion. Its only responsibility is to protect the rights and welfare of all of its citizens, this includes homosexuals too. We should not restrict the rights of others just because we do not agree with what they do. If we lived by that rule none of us would peacefully co-exist in the country. We ousted Jammeh because he restricted our freedom. Now that we regained it, we have a moral obligation to refrain from restricting the rights of others. We can do this by simply repealing section 144 or any sections in our constitutions that deny homosexuals basic human rights and cease discriminating against these innocent individuals.

Additionally, there is the "even animals are not homosexuals, (this I presume is to show the indecency of homosexuality) therefore it should remain illegal". Most people that use this argument fail to realise two things, one, human beings are animals, and two, yes, other animals have shown signs of homosexuality. Yale University's scientific community claimed that homosexual behavior has been found in over 450 animal species around the world.

At this juncture, it becomes a question of whether we should not kill them or arrest people for something they cannot control. The answer to this should be obvious, let people live their lives. Sending people to jail for something that is not harmful to anyone or the society cannot be classified as anything but injustice. Unless, you are a truly sadistic, inhumane, and cruel person that would be willing to suppress the rights of thousands of human beings just because of your religious beliefs then the answer would be the contrary. We become no different from organizations like ISIS, a villainous terrorist organization if we let this happen. We cannot claim to want "freedom" when we only give it to a specific group of people while neglecting others. We will never live in a free society when we allow certain groups of our society to be discriminated against. It is a universal truth that freedom is for everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. If we want freedom and the right to live a happy life for ourselves then we should let homosexuals have those same rights by legalizing it. No one is forcing you to relinquish your believe in God. I am simply urging you to give them basic human rights by legalizing it. Let people do what they please, as long they are not harming anyone, let them live in peace without fear of persecution.

It is saddening that most homosexuals in our country and most places in the world continue to live under oppressive laws. Laws that systemically try to exterminate them, due to something they have no control over. This brings a quote to mind from a book I recently read called "Far From The Tree" by Andrew Solomon, that summarizes why we shouldn't discriminate against homosexuals or any group for that matter. It states "If we tolerate prejudice toward any group, we tolerate it toward all groups" this I hold to be an absolute truth. If we let other people get discriminated against because of something they were born with, how can we guarantee that we will not let someone else torment another person for being Jola, or Fula, or Mandinka, or Black, or White, or any other group of humans? It is our obligation to make our country a better place for everyone, not just for ourselves, but even for people we do not agree with. Legalizing homosexuality would be a great leap toward creating a conducive and free environment for all Gambian people; I mean all of them, not just a particular group of Gambians.

By Muhammed Sabally

A Gambian teenager living in the USA

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