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Senegal: Four women accused of breaking anti-gay law released

Ruling expected in case of fifth accused, who is a minor

Four women have been acquitted of breaking Senegal's anti-gay law, while a verdict in the case of a fifth accused is pending. Credit: wikipedia.org

Four women accused of violating an anti-gay law in Senegal were released Nov 20 after a judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict them under the measure, a report on Trust says.

A fifth accused, described as a minor, will know her fate Nov 22, the report adds.

The women were arrested at a Nov 11 birthday party held in a bar in the capital city of Dakar. According to Trust, police detained them after receiving an anonymous tip that the accused were caressing each other in the bar.

Trust quotes the women's lawyer, Cheikh Amadou Mbeye, as saying that while the country's religious and societal morals condemn homosexuality, the court's decision to free them was "about the law."

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, according to a report in The Washington Post. Ndeye Kebe says her group has received several reports of police interrogating women suspected of violating Senegal's penal code.

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.”

But Kebe says legally establishing what defines an "unnatural act" is problematic.