Appeal to Senegal to release 5 alleged lesbians

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Front Line Defenders logo

Human rights defenders called today for the immediate release of five women arrested Nov. 11 in Senegal on suspicion of homosexual activity.

The women are members of Sourire de Femme (Woman’s Smile), an organization that lobbies for lesbians’ rights in Senegal.

In an emailed appeal, Front Line Defenders provided a slightly fuller account of the circumstances of the arrests and detention, which were first reported yesterday:

On 11 November 2013, Senegalese police reportedly arrested Ms Sine Dieng and four of her colleagues, Ms Ndeye Diallo, Ms Codou Sao, Ms Bineta Ndongo Dieng and Ms Fatou Ndoye, and held them in custody on suspicion of violating article 319 of the Penal Code, which criminalises homosexual acts. Sine Dieng is Deputy Director of Sourire de Femme. ….

At approximately 2am, the human rights defenders were celebrating a friend’s birthday in a nightclub in the town of Yoff, north of Dakar, when four police officers entered and asked them to produce their identity cards. Although three of them did so, all five were arrested and taken to the central police station in Dakar where they have been detained under article 319 of the Penal Code.

On 12 November 2013, a local newspaper reported that the police had arrested the five women for being “caught committing homosexual acts in public.” The leadership of Sourire de Femme has expressed doubt over the allegation. It is expected that the five human rights defenders will appear before the judge by the end of the week.

In February 2013, the president of Sourire de Femme, Ms Ndeye Kebe, was arrested and detained in Casamance on homosexuality-related allegations. Senegal is among the African countries where same-sex relationships are criminalised. Under article 319 of the Senegalese Penal Code, those found guilty of committing “an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex” face sentences of up to five years in prison and fines of up to USD 3,000.

Front Line Defenders urged the authorities in Senegal to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Sine Dieng and her colleagues from Sourire de Femme, and drop any charges against them as evidence shows they are solely motivated by their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights;
  • Put an end to police and judicial harassment faced members of Sourire de Femme and other LGBT human rights defenders;
  • Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Senegal, in particular those advocating for the rights of the LGBT community, are able to carry out their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

The group also expressed its opposition to the Senegal’s anti-homosexuality laws.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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