There are promising developments in the West African nation of Gambia. A court has dropped charges against 18 men and two women who were arrested in April and charged with "unnatural offenses" and "indecency".
The defendants were accused of homosexuality but the prosecutors' case was "based on discredited evidence", reports Tanzania's The Citizen and the UK-based GayStarNews. Same-sex relations are banned in Gambia. Violators face up to 14 years in prison.
Two police officers previously testified that when they had raided the nightclub they had seen the defendants "wearing female clothes." ... These allegations were denied by all the defendants who stated no one there wore drag. The police officer obtained 43 pictures from digital cameras at the venue as central ‘evidence’ supporting their claims. However after examination most of the pictures were taken by the club owner’s at different occasions and could not possibly have been attributed to the accused.
That's the good news. On the other hand, some defendants say they have been ostracized by family and neighbors "after their names and photographs were published in newspapers."
President Yahya Jammeh has ruled Gambia after seizing power in 1994. In recent years the West African dictator has attracted international attention for his anti-gay rhetoric and violent threats. In May and June 2008, the Gambian leader ordered all homosexuals to leave the country and promised to "cut off the head"of any gay man remained in the West African nation.
The European Union has cancelled 22 million euros ($26 million) in budget support to Gambia in 2010 due to concerns over human rights, reports Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The EU is the leading aid provider for Gambia. Jammeh recently has slammed EU and UK attempts to link aid to human rights and support of gays.
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is also the only African nation to guarantee marriage equality.
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