Dakar the capital and largest city of Senegal
Despite official denials that LGBT people are persecuted in Senegal, five women have been arrested on charges of homosexuality in the capital city.
According to AP and local reports, the women were detained at a birthday party at the Piano Bar in Dakar’s Yoff district, said to be a popular meeting area for gays and lesbians.
One of the women has been identified as 31-year-old Sene Dieng, an assistant director at lesbian rights group Women’s Smile.
It is unclear what exactly the women were doing that may have led to their arrests but one report claims that residents tipped-off police.
A recent global study found that 96% of the public in the predominantly Muslim country believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society.
The women were expected to appear in court on Tuesday and face jail time of between one and five years if convicted.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Senegal under article 319 of the penal code which criminsalises “improper or unnatural” acts.
In June, Senegal’s President Macky Sall and President Obama exchanged words over the issue of LGBT rights during the American leader’s visit to the African country.
At a press conference in Dakar, President Sall responded directly to Obama’s comments supporting the rights of all people.
“Senegal, as far as it is concerned, is a very tolerant country which does not discriminate in terms of inalienable rights of the human being,” said Sall.
“We don’t tell anybody that he will not be recruited because he is gay or he will not access a job because his sexual orientation is different. But we are still not ready to decriminalise homosexuality.”
In October, Senegal refused to accept recommendations through the United Nations Human Rights Committee for it to decriminalise same-sex sexual relations and to ensure that LGBT people do not face discrimination or violence.
Sidiki Kaba, the minister of justice of Senegal, contradicted his own president by claiming that there is in fact “no criminalisation of homosexuality in Senegal”.
“Article 319 talks about acts contrary to nature. The fact of being homosexual in Senegal is not a crime, and there has been no prosecution or trial of persons who are homosexual under the Criminal Code,” he stated.
Activists have documented numerous cases in recent years of violence against LGBT people as well as arbitrary arrests of people suspected to be gay or lesbian.
In 2010, Amnesty International documented cases in which men accused of being homosexuals were tortured by police officials to extract confessions.