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African Nation of Gabon Adopts Ban on Gay Sex

Gabonese and Pride flags

The west-central African nation is going against a trend toward decriminalization.

The west-central African nation of Gabon has adopted a law criminalizing gay sex, bringing the number of countries with such laws to 70.

The new law bans "sexual relations between people of the same sex," even if consensual, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. It was passed in July but did not receive much press coverage. Thomson Reuters published its story Friday, and copies of the law are available online.

The penalty is up to six months in prison and 5 million CFA francs, which comes out to $8,521, according to Thomson Reuters.

The law "has further sent the LGBT community underground and has created harassment," Davis Mac-Iyalla of the Ghana-based Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa told the foundation. "The corrupt police now use that, arrest people, and then people have to bribe their way out."

Another African nation, Botswana, decriminalized gay sex in June through a court ruling, dropping the number of countries with gay sex bans to 69, the lowest since LGBTQ rights group ILGA World began monitoring these laws in 2006, Thomson Reuters reports.

While some evangelical Christians in certain parts of Africa advocate adopting or maintaining bans on gay sex, the trend is toward decriminalization, Neela Ghoshal, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told the foundation. Thirty-three of the 54 nations in Africa still criminalize consensual gay sex, but six African countries have lifted their bans since 2012.

"It's unfortunate that a lot of African countries have claimed and owned those homophobic, colonial values, but others haven't," she said. "In general, across the continent, things are moving more in the right direction than in the wrong direction ... I'm guessing you'll see a lot of change in the next 10 years or so."

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