Madi Jobarteh Makes The Case For Gay Rights! The Republic, Democracy And (Gay)Rights

Madi Jobarteh Makes The Case For Gay Rights!

The Republic, Democracy And (Gay)Rights

By Madi Jobarteh (Human Rights Activist, Westminster Foundation Representative and Member of the Human Rights Commission)

June 23, 2020

(Courtesy of Fatunetwork)

Introduction by Dida Halake

This piece by Madi Jobarteh follows up on my piece yesterday in Freedomnewspaper (“great minds think alike”!). I paste the link to my piece below.

I think Madi Jobarteh, with Imam Baba Leigh, Njundu Drammeh and Lawyer Emmanuel Joof are members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and have presented this case as laid out by Madi to The National Assembly in their Report. TheNational Assembly will certainly reject the NHRC recommendations regarding the decriminalisation/rights of homosexuality.

The Government has announced today, emphatically, that it has no plans to decriminalise or unban homosexuality.Lawyer Darboe, UDP Leader, has even gone as far as stating: … Muslims and Christians. We will not accept that act of dogs in this country”. The “dogs” analogy is rather surprising coming from a Human Rights Lawyer and an Elder Statesman like Lawyer Darboe. And his Christian brethren would reject the reference to “dogs” – because gays would be seen as human but “sinners” in Christian theology: they, as “sinners” are the very people for whom God sent Jesus to save their souls: by the way, if a gay Muslim died, doesn’t Muslim theology also require prayer for the salvation of the departed human soul?

Madi’s piece is emphatically for gay rights and decriminalisation of homosexuality. Madi makes the case that as citizens of The Gambia,the 1997 Constitution guarantees their rights to be gay if they want. And I think the Supreme Court would agree with Madi’s interpretation under the 1997 Constitution. That is the only hope the NHRC has got of getting its way on the decriminalisation of homosexuality –through the Supreme Court. The politicians and government will not even dare to think of unbanning or decriminalising homosexuality because they would be overwhelmingly voted out of office.

So the EU and the NHRC (and even maybe the government secretly!) will pin their hopes onthe un-elected and independent Supreme Court. Madi Jobarteh’s case is powerful enough for the Supreme Court – and the Supreme Court may also argue that it is in the National Interest to unban and decriminalise homosexuality: why lose our development partners goodwill on an issue that is of no importance to 99% of Gambians? Afterall, tourists have gone around semi-naked on Gambia’s beaches for 50 years … but Gambians whose culture is different have not gone naked on the beach. Decriminalising homosexuality will not make good Gambian Muslims and Christians homosexuals … if you fear otherwise it just shows that you are not confident in the strength of your faith!


Madi Jobarteh, Esq. for The Gambia Gay Coalition:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Gambia Supreme Court,

“What is a Republic? The basic dictionary meaning is that it is a state in which power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected president rather than a monarch. This definition is more clearly espoused in the 1997 Constitution, under Section 1 which established the Gambia as Sovereign Republic. The section went further to state that the sovereignty of the Gambia resides in the people, from whom all organs of the Government derive their authority and in whose name and on whose welfare and prosperity the powers of the Government are exercised in accordance with the Constitution.

Therefore, it is clear that sovereign power resides in only the people. That all citizens are equal in that sovereignty and that there is no superior and inferior citizen or majority and minority tribes or religions or groups such that such status will accord any citizen or group any power over others. This means no one citizen or group can claim to determine the manner of governance, policy, development or way of life in this country.

In the Constitution a whole chapter is also dedicate to the establishment and protection of human rights and freedoms to which all citizens are equal. Those rights are citizens’ sovereign rights. This chapter did not say some citizens will enjoy more rights than others or some citizens can prevent others from enjoying their right in anyway. Rather all citizens are equal in rights hence equal sovereignty of all. The Constitution places absolute obligation on the State to ensure that these fundamental rights and freedoms are protected without any favour or ill-will or for and against any citizen because of tribe, religion, culture, sex, age, region, or any other status including sexual orientation.

The question that Gambians must therefore confront is what kind of Republic do we want? Currently our Republic is a democracy. It is governed according to the Constitution which was made by citizens to set the guidelines as to how we live in this society. That Constitution has established democratic governance as the political system for this society. This means the Gambia is not a theocracy or an oligarchy, a plutocracy, one-party sate, communist or capitalist or an atheistic state. The kind of Gambia we have is what has been spelt out in the Constitution.

There is no doubt that in this Republic the citizens belong to different religions, mainly Islam and Christianity. Some citizens are female and others male. There are several tribes and regions. There are communities and families. All these individuals and groups have their various values and worldviews according to their beliefs, cultures and other orientations and philosophies based on their education, experience and exposure. That notwithstanding, the Gambia as a nation-state is not governed by any particular religious belief, or the culture of any tribe or the worldview of any single citizen. In other words, the Gambia is governed according to the 1997 Constitution which also accords all citizens to have the fundamental right to practice their faiths and cultures under the protection of that Constitution.

The Gambian Constitution can be considered as a big road on which all citizens are traveling to their various destinations, dreams, objectives and destinies. What the Constitution therefore provides is that while we may all not agree on the same idea or perception but there is space for all to walk on this road without having to step on each others toes. Those who wish to pray can pray. Those who wish to drink alcohol can do so. Those who wish not to belief in any religion can also do so. This, is both the beauty and disadvantage of Democracy that citizens must contend with if we are going to have a Republic in which we can all live in peace, security and justice.

That is to say, we all have equal rights as citizens and no one must attempt to damage, limit, deny or seize another citizen’s rights just because in your view or according to your culture or your religion or personal values you do not consider that right to be worthy of enjoyment.

This point is important to recognize because ultimately it is this point upon which the very foundation and the existence of the Republic and the freedom of all citizens stand. Otherwise if at any moment one citizen or group of citizens feels because of their personal values or religion or culture this or that particular right must not be enjoyed by others rest assured that one day another group could also rise up over there to say another right must not be enjoyed.  In that case what we will witness is conflict among ourselves leading to self destruction.

For example, there is no doubt that Islam and Christianity have prohibited many sins. One of those sins is homosexuality. Other sins include adultery, fornication, lying, cheating and corruption in general among others. A believer is required to uphold the precepts of one’s faith such that one would avoid committing any sin. Therefore, the current debate about LGBT has been erroneously made into a religious debate when it is not. This is because no one can deny that homosexuality is a sin in Islam or Christianity. I do not think there is anyone who is seeking to change that fact.

The issue of LGBT is therefore a human rights issue which, if viewed from the point of a Democratic Republic would be seen to be a non-issue if indeed believers would adhere to the principles of their faith. Let imams and priests preach the faithful to uphold their religious values. But let none of them say no one should enjoy a particular right simply because that is a sin in this or that particular religion. After all, a Muslim or Christian man or woman who decides to be gay must have already known what his or her religion says about that. Therefore, it is between him and God to address. But as a Democratic Republic the right to a different sexual orientation is just one right among many other rights that some citizens may like or dislike, but none must stop another citizen from enjoying the right.

It is obvious that lot of sins, contrary to Islam and Christianity are committed in this country everyday by men and women who claim to be Muslims and Christians. But the Republic cannot create a law to ban those sins so long as they do not infringe on the right of the other person. Usually where sins are criminalized such as lying or stealing it is because one is under oath in the case of lying or it means one has illegally taken a property that does not legally belong to you hence depriving someone’s right to property and personal liberty in the case of stealing or corruption in general.

This means sins are now left to the believer to commit or avoid based on his or her piety. Otherwise let us declare the Gambia an Islamic Republic or Christian Republic or if possible combine them into an ‘Islamic – Christian Republic of the Gambia’. In that case we can now criminalize adultery, fornication, drinking alcohol, eating pork, lying, stealing, cheating, failure to care for a mother, children, wife or husband or perpetuating injustice, discrimination, backbiting, hypocrisy, arrogance and failure to share with the needy or failure to care for the environment, the old, children, women, orphans and the society at large. Who is for that kind of Republic? Raise your hand!

For the Gambia Our Gay-Friendly Homeland”

I rest the Plaintive’s case.

Madi Jobarteh. Esq

Editors  note:  The author’s views don’t not represent the position of the Freedom Newspaper.  Thanks for your kind attention.


Join The Conversation