Monday, 28 June 2010

Senegal: addressing escalating arrests and violence

Flag-map of SenegalImage via Wikipedia
Source: IGLHRC

In Senegal, same-sex activity has, since 1965, been punishable by up to five years imprisonment. Enforcement of this law has escalated in the past two years, with the arrests of more than 50 people and trials of at least 16 individuals suspected of same-sex activity or being part of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans community.

Simultaneously, state-sanctioned violence and anti-gay rhetoric in the media against individuals believed to be LGBT has increased.

In February 2008, publication of photographs from a same-sex commitment ceremony set off a wave of arrests and an anti-gay media frenzy and sent dozens of gay men into exile. In December 2008, police raided an HIV training hosted by a local AIDS Service organization — AIDES-Senegal. Those present were arrested, beaten, held in appalling conditions and sentenced to eight years in prison before successfully appealing their convictions. Arrests continued with the apprehension of four men in Darou Mousty in June 2009.

In November, Safinatoul Amal, an organization charged with the spiritual protection of the town of Touba, reportedly raided a man's home and arrested him for "incitement to debauchery" and forming a "network of homosexuals." On December 24, twenty-four men were arrested at a private home in Saly Niax Niaxal and briefly held before being released. The arrests were accompanied by sensational media coverage of LGBT issues, virulently homophobic statements from religious and political leaders, and violence — including physical attacks and the exhumation and desecration of the bodies of deceased people suspected of being LGBT.

IGLHRC has responded to these events and worked closely with emerging LGBT communities in Senegal to protect the human rights of LGBT people and their defenders. Along with regular updates and action alerts designed to bring pressure to bear on Senegal's government, we also provided material support for those fleeing from danger, visited those in prison and provided food and medical supplies, and documented the patterns of abuses faced by LGBT people in Senegal.

Of particular significance is our recent collaboration with None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa, that resulted in four audio profiles of LGBT Senegalese, who recount their experiences with hostility and homophobia in the country.
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