Africa

Senegal: No ‘anti-homosexuality’ law? Jail for 7 for gay sex

Senegal's location in Africa.

Senegal’s location in Africa.

Seven men have been sentenced to six months in prison in Senegal after being convicted of homosexual activity in a private apartment.

In discussions with the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2013, the Senegal delegation claimed that no one is punished for homosexuality in Senegal, but only for homosexual activity.

Defense lawyers said that none of the defendants was found engaged in sexual acts.

But in Senegal, prosecutions of LGBTI people are frequently reported.

In this month’s trial, the BBC reported, the court in Dakar was told that “police caught the men having sex during a raid.” The Senegalese newspaper Le Quotidien gave a more detailed, less conclusive account of the police testimony: that two men were found together in an “uncomfortable position” and that five were found naked in the bathroom with one used condom.

Under Article 319 of the Senegalese Penal Code, “an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex” is punishable by one to five years in prison and fines of up to 1,500,000 CFA francs (US $2,600 or 2,300 euros).

Senegal map

Senegal map

In 2013, a report by LGBTI rights organizations informed the U.N. Human Rights Council that Article 319 serves as the basis for arbitrary arrests by police. A simple complaint or rumors about homosexuality are enough for arrest. Moreover, the lack of independence of the judiciary and the strong pressure of public opinion based on moral and religious considerations leave the courts ineffective in protecting sexual minorities.

That report was submitted by the organizations ADAMA, AIDES Sénégal, Espoir and Prudence to the Human Rights Council in October 2013.

In response, the Senegal delegation said in 2013 that the country has no law against homosexuality and that Article 319 applies only to acts “against nature.” No one has been imprisoned in Senegal simply for his or her sexual orientation, the delegation said.

According to the BBC, the mother of one of the accused told the authorities her son was gay, but she failed to show up as a prosecution witness at the trial. Defense lawyer Abdoul Daff said the mother’s failure to appear in court should have caused the case to collapse, BBC said.

“There was neither material evidence nor testimony to corroborate the claims,” he said. “So we take note of this and we will see what to do next.”

The men were acquitted of a charge of marijuana possession, according to Le Quotidien.

The newspaper identified the defendants, none more than 30 years old, as Manga Thiam, Ndaraw Mboup, Diogomaye Sène, Mamadou Lamine Sow, Jérôme Do Santos, Massamba Bassène and Seydou Diagne. 

Le Quotidien also reported:

The homeowner, Youssou Diakhate, was away with his wife.

Diogomaye Sène said he had been invited to visit and was taking a nap when the police raided the home, accompanied by his mother. Ndaraw Mboup and Jérôme Do Santos also said they were sleeping when the police arrived.  Massamba Bassène said he was on the stairs at that moment.

Mamadou Lamine Sow, found in possession of a tablet computer containing pornographic films, said he was trying to get it to work. He said he had no idea what the computer contained.

According to police, Mamadou Lamine Sow was found in a room with another young man in an uncomfortable position.

Detectives said they found five young men naked in the bathroom, where there were condoms, one of which is already used, and marijuana joint.

The youths said they were hiding there from police.

The prosecutor said that the defendants were a group of homosexuals who were trying avoid punishment by denying the facts.

“There are acts that our society will never be ready to accept,” he said.

This article was revised on Aug. 24 to remove a statement that Senegal officials claimed that only same-sex intimacy in public is illegal. That mistake was based on an apparent mistranslation of the original statement in French.

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