Gabon’s Senate voted on Monday to decriminalise homosexuality, the president’s office said, in a landslide result that will make the country one of the few in Africa to reverse an earlier ban on same-sex relationships.
Under a 2019 law, Gabon was one of 73 countries or jurisdictions around the world, including more than two dozen in Africa, that criminalise sex between men and sex between women.
The move by the government to reverse part of the law barely a year after it was voted in, has sharply divided opinion and sparked intense debate on social media in the central African nation, where homosexuality is still broadly seen as a taboo.
The government did not explain why it decided to revise the law.
Nevertheless, the bill won the support of lawmakers in the lower house last week. While in the Senate, it “was adopted with a large majority of 59 votes”, Jessye Ella Ekogha, a spokesman for Gabon’s presidency, told Reuters. It will now be ratified by President Ali Bongo, he added.
Bongo’s wife, Sylvia, has voiced support for the bill, saying the ability to love freely without being condemned is a fundamental human right.
Ahead of Monday’s vote, some senators expressed their disapproval. “My religious convictions, my education and the vision I have for my country do not permit me to accept such an abomination,” said Senator Jean-Christophe Owono Nguema.