News / Africa

Accused Lesbians in Senegal Freed for Lack of Evidence

Map of SenegalMap of Senegal
Map of Senegal
Map of Senegal
Four women accused of violating Senegal’s harsh anti-gay law have been freed, after a court found there was not enough evidence against them.  But activists say the outcome will do little to ease pressure on the West African country’s embattled gay community.  
The four suspects in Wednesday’s case were arrested in the early morning hours of November 11 during a birthday party at a restaurant in Dakar’s Yoff district.  A fifth woman arrested in the same raid is a minor and so will have her case processed separately.
Police who conducted the raid later testified the women were kissing in public, something they strenuously denied at the time and when they appeared in court earlier this week.
Activists said it was unlikely any homosexuals would engage in public displays of affection in Senegal, a Muslim-majority country that has seen a rise in anti-gay sentiment in recent years.
Under Article 319 of Senegal’s penal code, homosexual acts are punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $3,000.
The head of an NGO called Prudence that works with gay men and lesbians, Djamil Bangoura, said the allegations against the women were likely fabricated.
“It is not possible.  The bar is on the main road," Bangoura said. "There are so many people there.  It is not a discreet place.  It is a bar where everyone goes.  I do not see how two homosexuals or two lesbians could gather and be open there in front of people who are not like them.”
Though he expressed relief over the outcome of the case, Bangoura said it was hardly a victory for the gay community.
The women denied being lesbians, and Bangoura said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation struggle even to find lawyers when legal action is taken against them.
In a statement reacting to the verdict, Human Rights Watch said the case called into question whether local law enforcement officials are committed “to basic human rights and the rule of law.”
HRW senior researcher on homosexual rights Neela Ghoshal said the acquittal “demonstrates ... good judicial reasoning can prevail over knee-jerk homophobia.”
But she said sexual minorities in Senegal “continue to be subjected to homophobic witch-hunts, encouraged by extremist religious leaders and unchallenged by the authorities.”

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs