Senegal arrests 5 'lesbians'

2013-11-12 22:18


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Dakar - Senegalese police detained five women accused of violating the country's anti-gay law, highlighting increased pressure on suspected lesbians in the deeply conservative West African nation, an activist group said on Tuesday.

The five women were detained early on 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 on 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 criminalising 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.

"In Senegal when we talk about homosexuality we are usually talking about men, and we forget about the women," Kebe said. "But people are now on the hunt for lesbians."

So far this year, Women's Smile has been made aware of at least 30 women who have been interrogated by police on suspicion of violating Senegal's anti-gay law, though it is unclear how many were jailed.

Police tipped off

The issue of gay rights in Senegal took centre stage during a visit from United States President Barack Obama in June. At a joint press conference in Dakar, Senegalese President Macky Sall openly clashed with Obama on the issue of whether homosexual acts should be decriminalised, saying Senegal was "not ready" to take such a step.

Sall insisted that gays in Senegal were only prosecuted if caught violating the law.

On Tuesday, at least one Senegalese newspaper reported that the five arrested women had been caught committing homosexual acts in public. Kebe, who has been in touch with Dieng by phone since the raid, said that allegation was dubious.

"The women said they were just sitting at a table," Kebe said. "There were more than 100 people at the bar, and the police went directly to their table."

She added that she suspected the police had been tipped off, perhaps by staff at the restaurant familiar with Dieng's work organizing events for Women's Smile.

Senegalese officials declined to comment on the case prior to the women's court appearance scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Read more on:    senegal  |  gay rights  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.