Amnesty International says violent reaction in Senegal to the release
of nine men previously sentenced to long prison terms for homosexual
activity is putting these men's lives at risk.
The release of
nine men accused of homosexual conduct has roused passions in Senegal.
Soon after the country's Appeal Court set the men free, they were
forced to go straight into hiding for fear of being attacked.
men who were cleared of all criminal acts and pardoned by the judge had
served almost three months in prison. But immediately after their
release, Senegalese media and a religious organization reacted
violently, encouraging people to attack anyone they suspect is gay.
welcomes of course the decision by Senegal's justice to release these
people," said Salvatore Sagues, he Senegal researcher at Amnesty
International. "But as soon as they were released, we learned that
several media and an Islamic organization published homophobic
statements describing these people as vicious, as perverts, as people
spreading AIDS. The radio programs also broadcast messages calling for
these people to be stoned."
Popular newspapers have published
the names of the defendants. The Senegalese Islamic non-profit, Jamra,
denounced the men in a local paper as deviants, saying homosexuality is
on a par with necrophilia and bestiality.
The nine men told
Amnesty International that after their arrest, crowds gathered at the
police station shouting abuse and asking that the men be handed to the
mob to be killed.
Sagues says the Senegalese government should protect all people at risk of homophobic attack.
we are asking them to do is to send a very strong message to the
population saying that these aural and verbal and possible physical
attacks are forbidden and the people who do this will be prosecuted,"
Dauda Diouf, director of community-led HIV programs at
Enda Tiers-Monde - an international non-profit organization based in
Dakar - has been working with the men throughout the trial. He says
they are in a safe place for now and fleeing the country is not a
sustainable solution. He says in the long run, it is better to reunite
the men with their families.
But Sagues is concerned about the safety of gay people in an increasingly homophobic environment.
are now in an increased homophobic atmosphere. In the last two years,
there have been several arrests and detentions of people accused of
homosexuality, while in the past these kind of incidents did not
occur. So we are very concerned about this climate and we think that
it is up to the authorities to ensure the safety of all its citizens,"
Senegal's penal code prohibits sexual conduct between
people of the same sex with a maximum penalty of five years and up to
$3,000 in fines.
Amnesty International is calling for
Senegalese authorities to repeal this law and to investigate
allegations of torture and ill-treatment against the nine men while
they were in police custody.