The Gambia’s sexual offences laws are in the Criminal Code 1939 (CC), the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2014 (CCA) and the Evidence Act 1994 (EA).
The Gambia’s sexual offences legislation do not reflect good practice standards. In particular, under the CC, rape is limited to penile penetration of the vagina (‘carnal knowledge’) and sexual offences are not gender-neutral. Child sexual assault offences are very limited and are weakened by a lack of close-in-age exceptions or defences. Close-in-age exceptions or defences are necessary to avoid criminalising young people and children who engage in consensual sexual activity with their peers. The CC criminalises sexual intercourse with a woman who has an intellectual disability regardless of her ability to give free and voluntary consent and uses the derogatory terms ‘imbecile’ and ‘idiot’.
The CC criminalises consensual same-sex sexual activity, such as ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ and ‘gross indecency’. The CCA introduced an additional offence of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ which includes serial offenders and persons with HIV, and which carries life imprisonment. Laws that criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity should be repealed and all non-consensual sexual acts, including anal ‘rape’, should be included in the general sexual assault provisions, such as ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’, as well as in child sexual offences. All of these crimes should be gender-neutral.
The Gambia is a state party to relevant international and regional human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is also a party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).
Read more about the criminalisation of LGBT people in The Gambia.
The full assessment of The Gambia is also available here.