Against the order of Nature: New book takes Barrow gov’t to task over LGBTQ rights
By Sainey Darboe
The publication of a new book , Against the Order of Nature , which chronicles the travails of a homosexual couple shines light on laws against homosexuality in the West African country of The Gambia. A fictional work by a Canadian national Josh Scheinert ,who served as a law professor at the university of The Gambia ;the book follows the travails and tribulations of Andrew and Thomas who fell in love in a country where the culture, law and religion are unforgiving and harsh on their kind. An American national, Andrew went to The Gambia as a volunteer after college with good intentions . He comes to monumental grief . Upon arrival in the West African country known as the Smiling Coast , he settles rapidly and develops friendships . He starts teaching at a school under Mr Jallow who serves as Principal. Mr Jallow is so impressed with his performance that he assigns him more responsibilities, which Andrew gladly embraces. Everything gets going as planned until his paths converged with Thomas. A hotel bartender, Thomas exudes the typical, unfailing Gambian charm and friendliness. Having extricated himself from his village which has been religiously and socially conditioned to be homophobic , Thomas harbors no illusions on how unforgiving his country can be to people like himself. The Order of Nature narrates the emotional anguish and fear of Thomas and Andrew as they try to balance their budding romance in a setting where their love is illegal. At the outset , they nurture the fantasy of the possibilities of a relationship under the dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh who vowed to behead homosexuals. As the Gambian government under Jammeh gets more homophobic with enactment of a law against ‘aggravated homosexuality against the order of Nature’ , Andrew and Thomas’ worst fears soon find confirmation. They get exposed and arrested. Their very romance swims against a strong current of resentment, prejudice and rejection by a society which sees their sexual orientation ‘against the order of nature’. Whereas Andrew who is an American National can go back home where he can openly live as a gay person;the same cannot be said of Thomas whose very existence is seen as a threat in his society. And the two have to balance their relationship against the realities of life in the tiny West African country as it is, rather than it should be .And this leaves Andrew impaled on the horns of a dilemma: does he stay in the safety of America or fight for this love ? The country known as the ‘Smiling Coast’ has transmogrified into the ‘Crying Coast’. At least for his kind. The author, Josh Scheinert explains of the genesis and culmination of his effort to put pen to paper on the issue: “My decision to write a novel stemmed from a desire to tell a story I felt was not getting enough attention. Having lived in The Gambia as a law professor for a year, I came to appreciate the real challenges LGBTQ people face in countries where laws criminalize who they are. During my time in The Gambia, I was in the closet. And even though my experience was wonderful, I knew that if there was ever a problem, I could easily return home, where home meant comfort and safety. For too many people, that luxury does not exist. I wrote The Order of Nature to provide readers a window into what it means to live a life that's illegal”.
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