LUSAKA, April 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In the face of U.S. threats to cut off foreign aid, President Yahya Jammeh defended Gambian laws banning homosexual behavior in comments to the country’s National Assembly last Friday.
“If you want us to be ungodly for you to give us aid, take your aid away, we will survive,” said Jammeh, in comments that were reported by the Daily Observer. “We will rather eat grass than accept this ungodly evil attitude that is anti-God, anti-human and anti-creation.”
The country’s stance against homosexual behavior has come under increased scrutiny after President Obama announced in December that the U.S. would look at how accepting a country was of homosexuality when considering foreign aid allocation.
On the same day that the Administration’s new policy was announced, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that gay rights and human rights were “one and the same” in a speech before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
British Prime Minister David Cameron had made a similar statement in October of 2011, threatening to reduce or cut off aid to African countries that prosecuted homosexual acts or did not permit gay “marriage.”
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Reactions to the threats have varied in African countries with anti-sodomy laws. In Malawi, where the country’s first openly gay couple was sentenced to fourteen years of hard labor after holding an “engagement” ceremony, officials had pledged to reconsider the ban within days of the Obama Administration’s announcement. Religious and political leaders in other African countries have blasted the decision, however.
According to President Jammeh, the Gambian law is enduring because it is rooted in the country’s culture and religion. Acceptance of homosexual acts would compromise the nation’s dignity and “insult God,” he said. The country is predominately Muslim, but is also home to many Christians.
He noted that Gambia had lost many of its traditional practices to the influence of western culture, but said that this was an issue where the country would stand firm.
“We lost our traditional head scarf for a necktie, but we will not lose our humanity for the so-called human rights,” he said. “We will respect human rights where a human being behaves like a human being.”
He added: “Let me make it very clear that if you want me to offend God for you to give me aid, you are making a great mistake. You will not bribe me to do what is evil and ungodly.”
Jammeh has taken a hard line against homosexual behavior during his four terms in office as President of Gambia. He has received criticism for threatening overly harsh penalties for homosexual acts, including advocating the death penalty. According to the U.S. Department of State, this threat was never translated into law, and current penalties do not include execution.