DAKAR — A group of 24 men in Senegal are under a criminal investigation for alleged "homosexual activities", a police source said Monday in the west African country, where homosexuality remains illegal.
Officers arrested the men on December 24 at a house in the seaside resort of Saly, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Dakar, for allegedly engaging in homosexual acts and holding an unauthorised party, the police source said.
They were released the next day but police are continuing their investigations, the source added.
"They can be called in again at any time. The two organisers were questioned today to see if there is anything to follow up with in this case," the source said.
The source said officers found condoms, lubricants, wigs and makeup when they raided the house in Saly where the party is said to have taken place.
Homosexuality is a crime in largely Muslim Senegal and carries a jail sentence of up to five years.
Human rights groups want that law scrapped but the government insists that is has no plans to do so.
Senegalese Foreign Minister Madicke Niang on December 10 said there is "no question that homosexuality will be decriminalised in Senegal."
Almost a year ago, judges there convicted nine Senegalese men of "indecent acts against nature" and membership of a criminal organisation after they were arrested at a private apartment in Dakar.
The Senegalese court of appeal overturned the ruling last April and ordered that the nine men be released.
Homosexuality in Senegal: religious leaders speak
Moral depravity, loss of social order, an act against nature: in Senegal, homosexuality arouses disapproval, fear and sometimes violence.
Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide
By Bineta Diagne
Assane Seck is the imam (leader) at the mosque of the unit 17 in the suburbs of Dakar. He often preaches against homosexuals "to raise awareness" about this phenomenon. Holder of an MA in Islamic law, this imam strongly condemns homosexuality in Senegalese society, composed of 95% of Muslims living in a secular state: I regard homosexuality in Senegal very much contrary to the faith, the religion and the morals of over 95% of the population," says Seck.
"This phenomenon (homosexuality) is strongly opposed to in our society. It arouses the most complete condemnation since Islam, as he says, has quite a strict view on homosexuality. According to this religious leader, homosexuality threatens the Senegalese "social order".
Similar thoughts are held by the Islamic NGO Jamra. Its president, Bamar Gueye, denounces the homosexual lobbies from Europe, who would be behind the Senegalese homosexuals: He says that some people from other countries want to impose something that is not consistent with their religion or tradition, while he recognises that faith is a sensitive matter.
This Muslim says that he confidentially advises the few homosexuals who come to his organisation: "We tell them to comply with the rules of our sublime religion,” says Gueye. He emphasises that they encourage them and do not force them.
More radical, Imam Assane Seck follows strictly what is in the Quran, which according to him, dictates to kill homosexuals to purify society.
Victims of evil
Another voice against homosexuals: the Church of Senegal. “The Christian faith rejects homosexuality,” says Father Léon Diouf, vicar at the Episcopal Cathedral of Dakar. Yet this Father preaches tolerance because he considers gays as victims of evil that should be protected from the movement of the crowd. (...) “It is the crowd that rejects this community,” he denounces.
A Senegalese activist at the African Meeting on Human Rights warns against the excesses of homophobia. “Opposing oneself against MSM (men who have sex with other men) does not warrant that we go dig up a homosexual, as was the case in Thiès last year. If you go this far, it means there is a problem in society,” he warns.
In February 2008, photos showing a gay ceremony published in local newspapers provoked an outcry and started a real man-hunt against homosexuals. “Since then, we are forced to hide,” says the executive secretary of a gay organisation, on condition of anonymity: “In the beginning, when our association was formed, we had difficulty in mobilizing the MSM because they had to leave their hiding.”
Meanwhile, in Senegal
Source: Pambazuka News - 19 February
By Cary Alan Johnson and Ryan Thoreson
The global outcry against Uganda's 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill' could not be more deafening. Opponents of the legislation have condemned the effort not just to put gays in prison, which is already the law in Uganda, but to further criminalise the 'promotion of homosexuality', require that suspected gays and lesbians be turned in to authorities, and to punish some individuals - including those who are HIV positive or those euphemistically called 'repeat offenders' - with death.
The governments of Canada, France and Sweden have branded the bill wrongheaded. From Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to President Barack Obama himself, the US, a major foreign donor to Uganda, has made its disapproval of the legislation clear. Usually silent religious leaders, from Anglican and Catholic church leadership to Saddleback church's Rick Warren and other evangelical Christians, have condemned the bill's promotion of the death penalty, imprisonment for gays and lesbians, and the threat its provisions pose to pastoral confidentiality.
This vehement response was absent less than a year ago and fewer than a hundred miles away, when the parliament of Burundi amended its penal code to criminalise consensual same-sex relationships for the first time in its history. Nor was it conspicuous when Nigeria considered criminalising attendance at gay-rights meetings or support groups in 2006. Now, horror at the cruelty of these new laws and growing evidence of direct involvement by the US religious right is leading to a subtle, but significant, sea change. Local LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) and civil-rights movements are finding the voice to condemn these horrible new pieces of legislation and the international community is standing its ground. Last month, the government of Rwanda dropped a proposal to criminalise homosexuality in the face of pressure from rights activists and HIV-service providers inside and outside of the country.
But while condemning new oppressive laws is important, it is just as important - and perhaps more pressing - to take measures to hold governments accountable for the daily violence and lifetimes of discrimination that LGBT people face in the more than 80 countries around the world that continue to criminalise homosexuality and the many more that impose penalties for those who challenge gender norms.
Take Senegal, for instance, where homosexuality has been illegal since 1965. The last two years have seen a dramatic escalation in homophobic persecution and violence, largely unnoticed by the international community and the world media. The country has experienced waves of arrests, detentions, and attacks on individuals by anti-gay mobs, fuelled by media sensationalism and a harsh brand of religious fundamentalism. Police have rounded up men and women on charges of homosexuality, detained them under inhumane conditions, and sentenced them with or without proof of having committed any offence.
Families and communities have turned on those suspected of being gay or lesbian. In cities throughout the county, the corpses of men presumed to have been gay have been disinterred and unceremoniously abandoned. As the international community has laudably warned Uganda on the progress of its nonsensical law, arrests on charges related to homosexuality in Senegal - five men in Darou Mousty in June, a man in Touba in November, and 24 men celebrating at a party in Saly Niax Niaxal on Christmas Eve - continue largely unnoticed.
Responding to the homophobic extremism in the Ugandan legislation is hugely important, but it is no substitute for a broad and unequivocal condemnation of sodomy laws and anti-LGBT violence wherever it occurs. When just such a statement condemning grave violations of human rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and calling for the end of criminalisation was brought to the UN General Assembly just one year ago, only 66 of 192 countries voted for it. At the time, the US was not one of them.
Even if the campaign against the anti-homosexuality bill succeeds, homosexuality will continue to be illegal in Uganda - just as it is in Senegal, where the lives of LGBT people are virtually unliveable. The test of our commitment to rights for all members of the human family, including LGBT people, is not whether we respond when the media turns its hot spotlight on a new, extreme piece of legislation. It is whether we are willing to commit our attention, resources, and political will in places like Senegal, where there are no cameras or reporters chronicling the impact of a decades-old law to hold us accountable. While the global sense of outrage at Uganda's bill is inspiring, it will be a missed opportunity if this spirited condemnation of homophobic violence fails to become standard operating procedure.
Cary Alan Johnson is the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). Ryan Thoreson is a research fellow at IGLHRC and co-author of 'Words of Hate, Climate of Fear: Human Rights Violations and Challenges to the LGBT Movement in Senegal'. The opinions expressed here are the authors' and not necessarily those of the organisation.