Same sex relations decriminalised; amended Penal Code denounced as 'repressive'

Association & Peaceful Assembly

Amendment Penal Code: same sex relations decriminalised, certain provisions denounced by civil society as 'repressive'

On 23rd June 2020, members of the National Assembly adopted an amendment to the Penal Code, which removed the provision that criminalised same sex relations. The Senate followed a few days later, on 29th June 2020. A year earlier, in July 2019, the Senate approved an amendment in which same sex relations were considered as 'a violation of morals' and punishable with a prison sentence of six months and a fine of five million CFA francs (9,000 USD). Prior to July 2019, there was no law on same sex relations. News reports indicate that the decriminalisation of same sex relations has divided public opinion in Gabon. 

The amendment of the Penal Code - Law 006/2020 of 30th June 2020 amending Law 042/2018 of 5th July 2019 on the Penal Code of the Gabonese Republic - raised concerns by civil society groups, who say the law is 'too repressive'. For example, article 158 provides for a maximum prison sentence of five years and a maximum fine of five million CFA francs (9,000 USD) for insulting the President 'committed anywhere, on any occasion or by any means whatsoever'. Article 84 foresees a maximum prison sentence of six months and/or a maximum fine of 50 million CFA francs (90,000 USD) for those making incorrect or incomplete declarations for the organisation of peaceful assemblies and meetings, likely to mislead on the conditions of the planned meeting, for those that call for mobilisation despite a ban, and for those that have participated in the organisation of an undeclared or banned public protest or meeting.

Civil society actor summoned for questioning

On 23rd July 2020, the Regional Directorate of Counter-Intrusion and Military Security in Libreville, also known as B2, summoned pastor Géorges Bruno Ngoussi for questioning, without giving any reason. Ngoussi, founder of Radio Television Nazareth and president of the National Civil Society Platform of Gabon, was reportedly held for 13 hours, before being released. Human rights group Réseau des défenseurs des droits humains en Afrique centrale (REDHAC; Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa) believes the questioning was in relation to his criticism of certain provisions in the amended Penal Code. A few days earlier, Ngoussi gathered with other pastors, leaders of unions and associations in a church to protest against the new Penal Code which they say is repressive. Ngoussi said to Radio France Internationale (RFI) that 'It is a discriminatory law! It was voted to muzzle people they don't want to hear from.'