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Senegal: Five women arrested for violating country’s anti-gay law

Lesbian advocacy group says women are facing increased scrutiny

President Macky Sall says that just because Senegal is not ready to decriminalize homosexuality doesn't mean his country is homophobic. Credit: law.harvard.edu

Five women were arrested Nov 11 at a birthday party in Senegal's capital city, Dakar, for reportedly flouting the country's anti-gay law, according to The Washington Post.

The head of a lesbian rights advocacy group says women who are believed to be lesbians have been facing increased scrutiny after a series of incidents in which women were targeted made headlines, the report says. One such incident involved the online posting of footage showing two women kissing, the Post notes, adding that Ndeye Kebe says her group has received several reports of police interrogating women suspected of violating Senegal's penal code.

Article 319 of the code reads, in part, that “whoever will have committed an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex will be punished by imprisonment of between one and five years and by a fine of 100,000 to 1,500,000 francs. If the act was committed with a person below the age of 21, the maximum penalty will always be applied.”

According to an Associated Press (AP) report, Senegal's president, Macky Sall, said that his country “was not ready to decriminalize homosexuality” and that that stance doesn’t mean “we are homophobic,” in the wake of a call by American President Barack Obama for the extension of equal rights to gay people. Obama made the call in June as he was visiting a number of African countries, including Senegal.

A recent Amnesty International report, entitled “Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa,” notes that there have been increased efforts to further criminalize queer people in the region in the last 10 years by targeting behaviour or imposing steeper penalties and broadening the scope of existing laws.

Read a copy of the Amnesty International report and recommendations.