18 April 2013

Gambia: Five Years Imprisonment or a Fine of 20,000 Dalasi or Both


If a male wears a female fashion in public one of the amendments that has been passed by the National Assembly deals with clothing.

Section 167 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting new a paragraph (j) immediately after paragraph (i) which reads: "Any male person who dresses or is attired in the fashion of a woman in a public place or who practices sodomy as a means of livelihood or as a profession shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with a fine of D20,000 or with both." The National Assembly has passed this Bill and if the President assents to the Bill it will become law.

The interesting thing about the Bill is that it deals with poor people who cannot afford to pay fines. Hence once convicted most of them would have to serve jail sentences.

It means that the state will take responsibility for feeding beggars, male and female prostitutes by keeping them in prison. Criminalizing personal behaviour that is a private matter is a difficult exercise.

Today one finds males with earrings and Rastafarian dressing. Jeans are common to both males and females.

The gender gap in terms of fashion is closing. How is it going to benefit society by starting a new wave of arrests of people for the clothes they wear? Behaviour is learnt. What is needed is spending more time with the young and using the media more often to educate.

Coercive measures do not work in terms of trying to stop alcoholism, etc. The state did criminalize skin bleaching but enforcement became a problem. We need to differentiate what could be solved by legislation and what could be solved through civic education. Behaviour is best shaped through civic education.

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