During President Obama’s visit to Senegal last week, that country’s president, Macky Sall, made the outrageous and unchallenged claim that Senegal is a “very tolerant country” in its treatment of LGBT people. Really?? “Tolerance” is an accurate description of Senegal’s attitude toward LGBT people only if you define “tolerance” as including “arrest, widespread discrimination, … and acts of violence.”
Here is what the State Department recently wrote about the treatment of LGBT people in Senegal in the 2012 edition of its annual report on human rights:
Consensual same-sex activity, referred to in the law as an “act against nature,” is a criminal offense. LGBT persons often faced arrest, widespread discrimination, social intolerance, and acts of violence. Senegalese NGOs worked actively on LGBT rights issues, but because of laws against homosexuality and social stigma, they maintained an exceedingly low profile.
The media rarely reported acts of hatred or violence against LGBT persons. In 2010 HRW released a report, Fear of Life: Violence against Gay Men and Men Perceived as Gay in Senegal. The report discussed cases of violence against gay men and the legal and cultural milieu that fostered such violence. While high-profile cases such as those cited in the report were from 2009 and earlier, local human rights groups reported that LGBT persons still faced frequent harassment by police, including arrest based only on second-hand reports and poor treatment in detention due to their sexual orientation.
In January two women were arrested following the circulation of a cell phone video that showed them kissing. The incident was widely covered in local print and online media. The women were held in detention and released on bail several days later but were never formally charged with a crime.
In October a court in Dakar sentenced Tasmir Jupiter Ndiaye to four years in prison and fined him 200,000 CFA francs ($400) for violating laws prohibiting “acts against nature” in addition to charges of illegal possession of arms and battery, after he purportedly refused to pay another man, Matar Diop, for sexual services. Diop was sentenced to three years in prison.
- Obama nudges Africa toward LGBT rights; too gently? (76crimes.com)
- President Barack Obama clashes with Senegalese President Macky Sall over gay rights (newsday.com)
- Senegal leader rejects repeal of anti-gay laws (76crimes.com, April 13, 2013)
- Senegal plea: Fight AIDS by changing homosexuality law (76crimes.com, April 4, 2012)