News / Africa

Senegal Rejects Obama's Push for Gay Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and Senegalese President Macky Sall (R) watch a military band play at the airport in Dakar, Senegal, June 28, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Senegalese President Macky Sall (R) watch a military band play at the airport in Dakar, Senegal, June 28, 2013.
Anne Look
During President Obama’s visit to Dakar, he and Senegalese President Macky Sall were asked about Senegal's treatment of homosexuals. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two rulings this week that expanded the rights of gays in the United States to get married. President Obama said his message for Africa is that everyone should be treated equally by the law, while President Sall said Senegal is "not ready" to de-criminalize homosexuality.

Front-page headlines in Senegal's Friday morning papers said it all.

One read, "Macky Resists Light Pressure from Obama and clashes with the USA," and another: "Obama Makes the Case For Gays, Macky Says No!"

In Dakar, many Senegalese said they agree with their president.

"Homosexuality is not part of our culture and we are not ready to accept it." Mareme Diop said. "Maybe the West accepts it, but we think it is wrong."

Many invoked religion.  "As Muslims, we cannot accept homosexuality." Moussa Gueye said, "this is a secular country, but it is also 95 percent Muslim."

The two leaders responded to questions on gay rights at Thursday's news conference. Debate over that topic has largely eclipsed other aspects of President Obama's 36-hour visit to the small West African nation.

President Obama said everyone is entitled to his or her beliefs but discrimination is not acceptable. "Regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you - the benefits, the rights and the responsibilities under the law - people should be treated equally. And that's a principle that I think applies universally," he stated.

The Obama administration's support for gay rights has been a delicate subject in Africa, where Amnesty International says homosexuality is illegal in 38 countries.

In Senegal, homosexual acts are punishable by up to five years in prison.

President Sall said the question of changing that law is a "societal issue," and something that Senegal is "not ready" to do. He said homosexuals are not being discriminated against in Senegal.

Gay-rights organizations in Senegal say that is not true.

Activist Seydou Djamil Ba said he has lost his two previous apartments. A mob attacked and set fire to the first one, and his landlord recently kicked him out of the second one for being gay.

He said no one wants to talk about homosexuality - not at the police stations, not at the courts and even not with some lawyers. He said, "You can't bring your problems to the law," and that "no one wants to defend you if it has to do with homosexuality."

President Sall said Thursday there is serious debate on the issue in the Cabinet and the National Assembly, but Senegalese say they don't expect to see the law changed any time soon.

"We have customs in our country that make legalizing homosexuality impossible, and President Sall has a lot to lose if he said anything otherwise." Idrissa Ba said. "Our realities are different from those in the United States."

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid