5 Women Arrested Under Senegal’s Anti-Gay Law
Senegalese police detained five women accused of violating the country’s anti-gay law, highlighting increased pressure on suspected lesbians in the deeply homophobic West African nation, an activist group said Tuesday.
The five women were detained early Monday morning during a birthday party at a restaurant in Dakar’s Yoff district that has been described in the Senegalese press as a meeting point for gay men and lesbians, said Ndeye Kebe, president of the activist group Women’s Smile.
The oldest of the suspects, 31-year-old Sene Dieng, is an assistant director at Women’s Smile, the only group in Senegal to advocate for lesbians’ rights.
The five women were expected to appear in court Tuesday, though Kebe said they had been unable to afford a lawyer.
Senegal’s penal code calls for prison sentences of up to five years and fines of up to $3,000 for committing "an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex." Since 2008, the Muslim-majority country has been gripped by what Human Rights Watch describes as an anti-gay "moral panic," with arrests and mob justice on the rise.
As in other sub-Saharan African countries that enforce laws criminalizing homosexual acts, Senegalese police have primarily targeted gay men for arrest and extortion, and raids against suspected lesbians are fairly rare.
Kebe said, however, that suspected lesbians have been under mounting pressure in the wake of several scandals that have garnered significant media attention. Earlier this year, for example, a man who discovered cell-phone footage of his 18-year-old girlfriend kissing another woman posted it online, Kebe said, forcing the girlfriend to flee the country when the story spread.