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Draconian anti-gay bill signed into law in The Gambia

BANJUL, The Gambia -- Yahya Jammeh, the brazenly homophobic president of The Gambia who has called gay people "vermin" and should be exterminated like mosquitoes that cause malaria, has signed into law one of the most horrific anti-gay laws in the world.

The draconian law puts anyone convicted of certain "homosexual acts" with life imprisonment, according to the Associated Press.

Jammeh signed the bill into law on Oct. 9, apparently in great secrecy, since it has not been announced to the public, AP reported.

Human rights organizations have condemned efforts to pass the bill in The Gambia, which was modeled after the law in Uganda that was overturned on a technicality because parliament has passed the bill without a proper quorum. Uganda has retooled that bill, and lawmakers hope to once again pass it by Christmas.

AP reports:

The Gambian law criminalizes “aggravated homosexuality”, and targets “serial offenders” and people living with HIV or AIDS. Suspects can be charged with aggravated homosexuality for engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or who has been drugged. The term also applies when the suspect is the parent or guardian of the other person, or is “in authority over” him or her.

People found guilty of aggravated homosexuality can be sentenced to life in prison.

Amnesty International recently reported that Gambian security forces were allegedly torturing people arrested in raids, threatening them with rape and pressuring them to confess to homosexual acts.

While laws such as this are popular in countries notorious as being homophobic, they are also used to target political opponents and rivals to those in power.

As word leaked out that Jammeh has signed the anti-gay bill, the Human Rights Campaign blasted controversial leader and the new law.

"These draconian laws have no place in the 21st century, and the United States must send a clear message that the Gambian government cannot trample on the rights of its LGBT citizens,” HRC president Chad Griffin said. “We call on the Obama Administration to conduct a full diplomatic review of the United States’ relationship with The Gambia.”

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration conducted such a review of Uganda following the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February, and imposed a series of concrete actions that held the Ugandan government and leaders in it accountable for it. Uganda’s law was ruled unconstitutional in August based on a procedural technicality, the HRC said.

In 2008, Jammeh promised "stricter laws than Iran" against LGBT people, and said he would "cut off the head" of LGBT people living in the country, the HRC said. Earlier this year, he said that “we will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”

"By signing this law, President Jammeh rides a wave of anti-LGBT laws enacted in Africa. He has been one of the most violently vocal opponents of LGBT people — promoting stigmatization, describes them them as ‘vermin’ and even calling for their death," HRC global director Ty Cobb said. "But it's very important to note that this is a global problem, not an African one.”