The authorities in the Ivory Coast have still not explained why two men were jailed for homosexuality, even though there is no law against it.
In November, we reported that the two men, then known only as PL abd LA, were allegedly caught having sex in the small town of Sassandra in October.
They were tried and sentenced to prison; believed to be the first time that someone has been jailed for private, consensual gay sex in the Ivory Coast.
The men have now agreed to be interviewed and have been named as Yann, 31, and Abdoul, 19. According to The Guardian, they identify as gay but deny having been in a relationship.
While they were released from prison this week, prosecutors have disturbingly still not revealed on what charges they were convicted.
Sex between consenting adults of the same sex in private has never been illegal in Ivory Coast. It is possible, however, that the men were incorrectly jailed under a law that criminalises “public indecency”.
Yann told the newspaper that his imprisonment had thrown his life into disarray and meant that he was unable to take care of his mother.
“We were convicted in an unjust manner. If there is no law that that condemns it, I don’t understand how we could have been convicted,” he said.
Graeme Reid, Director of the LGBT rights programme at Human Rights Watch, slammed the “arbitrary arrests and an unexplained conviction”.
He added: “The government needs to come clean and offer an explanation to these two young men who have spent three months in jail for no apparent reason.”
The men now plan to move to the capital Abidjan where they hope to find a greater degree of safety and acceptance.
In June 2016, a group of Ivorian gay men were attacked, beaten and verbally abused after they signed a condolence book at the US Embassy in Abidjan for victims of the Orlando massacre.
In 2014, the office of Alternative Côte d’Ivoire – an organisation working for the rights of LGBTI people – was ransacked by a mob. Computers were stolen and the security officer was beaten so badly he required medical treatment. The walls were daubed with graffiti saying “Non aux pédés” (No to fags).