Gabon’s upper parliamentary chamber, the senate, has voted in favour of decriminalising homosexuality, a week after the lower house strongly voted in that direction.
The ball is now in the court of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose ratification will make the bill law in the central African country. Gabon will join a handful of African countries to legally allow homosexuality.
The legislation has not gone down well with a core section of the largely religious Gabonese society with reports indicating that prominent politicians, religious leaders and a cross section of the public have denounced the legislation, describing it as a change designed to appease foreign donors.
The bill if assented to by the president will expunge a 2019 law that criminalised homosexuality, stipulating a six months jail term and sizeable fine for gay sex.
Activists and pro-gay rights group are celebrating the move as key steps in seeking that African governments respect the rights of same-sex couples.
Reports by such groups in other African countries have routinely alleged that the LGBT community have been forced underground due to harassment from anti-gay elements in their societies and actions of law enforcement.
Gabon’s legislative arm of government is bicameral in nature. The Senate consists of 91 seats elected for six-year terms by members of municipal councils and departmental (or divisional) assemblies.
The National Assembly consists of 120 seats. Members are elected for a five-year term by direct popular vote. The legislative branch shares the right to initiate new laws with the executive.