Reuters reports that lawmakers in Gabon’s upper house of parliament have voted in favour of legislation that will decriminalise homosexuality.

This is a significant move as it confirms the vote taken by the lower house of parliament in recent weeks.

The next step is for the legislation to be ratified by the country’s president. It’s assumed that this final step will be a formality without any further debate or discussion. It’s not clear how long it will take before the law will come into effect and that sexual relations between men will no longer be a criminal act.

The move to decriminalise homosexuality makes Gabon one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to reverse a law that punishes sexual relations between people of the same sex.

What’s life like for LGBT people in Gabon?

Gabon is a socially conservative country, but homosexuality was not criminalised until 2019. It was the revisions to the country’s Penal Code in 2019 that first prohibited same-sex sexual relations.

The Penal Code amendments introduced penalties of fines and up to six months imprisonment for people convicted of engaging in same-sex sexual relations.

Regardless of the legal status, homosexuality has generally been seen as a taboo topic. There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and no anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexuality.

The government’s move to reverse part of the law has sharply divided opinion and sparked intense debate on social media in Gabon.

The government hasn’t made any formal statement explaining why it has decided to bring forward this move to decriminalise homosexuality.