Senegal Sentences Gays to Prison, Commits Human Rights Violations | Freedom House

Senegal Sentences Gays to Prison, Commits Human Rights Violations

Freedom House is outraged by the sentencing in Senegal of two men to six months in prison on the basis of their sexual orientation. Freedom House calls for their immediate release without condition and encourages the Senegalese government to recognize its international commitments to universal human rights, and to show leadership in protecting sexual minorities against persecution.

“This is a disturbing development coming from one of West Africa’s leading democracies and most tolerant nations,” said Chloe Schwenke, head of global programs at Freedom House. Despite the recent development, Senegal’s constitution forbids “all forms of injustice, inequality and discrimination,” thus protecting sexual and gender minorities.

In Dakar on January 31, Judge Racky Deme sentenced the two men after neighbors accused them of engaging in same-sex relations. Under Senegal’s penal code, any person committing “an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex” can be sentenced to up to five years imprisonment and fined up to $3,000.

According to local press reports, the sentence reportedly led to two days of anti-LGBTI protests in Rufisque near police headquarters.

Over the past five years, Senegal has adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to LGBTI persons.  Sexual minorities are rarely brought before a judge for criminal sentencing, and communities regularly ignore and even deny the natural existence of same-sex couples.

“Senegal should rise above the politically motivated manipulation of outdated, intolerant cultural values, and instead rise to the challenge of being a champion of the human dignity of all of its citizens,” Schwenke said.

Learn more:
Freedom in the World 2013: Senegal
Freedom of the Press 2013: Senegal
Freedom at Issue: Blog