Gabonese lawmakers have shaken an entire nation of its customs and traditions. The central African country’s lower parliamentary chamber voted late Tuesday to decriminalize same-sex relationships.
Since then, there have been mixed reactions all around. From those that believe it is a useless law to the defenders of the law citing equality. The First Lady has openly celebrated the decision.
Same-sex marriage is still not allowed in Gabon, where homosexuality is still broadly seen as a social taboo. Activists have hailed this move that must now pass in the upper house of the Senate before the law is taken off the books.
“Our customs are against homosexuality. We must not take things that come from the West and bring them here, to our home, to Africa. So I, concretely, I say no to homosexuality in Gabon.”
But for MP Edagard Owono Ndong, he is happy: “I salute determination. I salute the courage, but above all I salute the willingness of members to enforce a right that I felt was being flouted. We cannot, in the name of I do not know what, make unjustified recriminations.
“We cannot tolerate the fact that others may be living in difficult situations in terms of their being. …in terms of their own being.”
On the other hand, some activists held a peaceful demonstration outside the senate building against the decriminalization law.
Telesphore Obame Ngono, leader of a anti-gay rights movement: “We were ordered by our law enforcement officers who asked us to go home and as we were going home they asked us to follow them to their premises for further explanations. We went there.
The exchange was courteous. Between us and them there was no violence and everything else. We went out of there at about 11:00 a.m. and came out at 5:00 p.m. We hadn’t had a chance to drop off that mail there.”
If the proposal is approved by the upper house and the president, Gabon could become one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish a law that punishes same-sex sexual relations.