Senegal | Lawmakers move to double gay sex prison terms

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Activists in Senegal are sounding the alarm over plans to bring in harsh new laws targeting the LGBTIQ community and its allies.

A group of MPs has drafted a bill that aims to clamp down on LGBTIQ people, including gender identity and expression, and dramatically increase jail time for those prosecuted for their sexuality.

Queer sexuality is already criminalised in Senegal, with the existing penal code outlawing “an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex.” Those found guilty are punished with between one and five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 to 1,500,000 francs.

Under the new proposed bill, the penalty for homosexuality will double to between five to ten years in jail – but it goes much further. According to the organisation Collectif Free, the legislation also targets the broader LGBTIQ community.

The group said in a statement that the bill will criminalise not just same-sex sexual acts but also being attracted to and having romantic feelings for a person of the same sex. The bill additionally criminalises LGBTIQ people and their identity in general as well as activists who work to support LGBTIQ equality and rights.

The legislation has been likened to the anti-LGBTIQ bill that is currently being considered by lawmakers in Ghana.

Free Collectif noted that just a few weeks ago an individual was sentenced to 5 years in prison for homosexuality in the Senegalese town of Kaolack.

“The human rights situation for LGBTI people is already sufficiently trying on a daily basis,” said activist and founder of Free Collectif, Souleymane Diouf (a pseudonym).

“The Free Collectif does not want Senegalese families to experience tragedies linked to the exclusion and rejection of LGBTI people, while homosexuality is the object of fierce political exploitation.”

Diouf added: “Homosexuality has always existed in Senegal as everywhere else and LGBTI people are a full component of Senegalese society which is entitled to respect, just like everyone else.”

In 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau challenged the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, on his country’s continued criminalisation of homosexuality. Former US President, Barack Obama did the same in 2013 but Sall has insisted that he will not allow homosexuality to be decriminalised.

A 2016 survey found that Senegal was the continent’s most homophobic nation, with 97% of people interviewed saying that they would not be comfortable having homosexual neighbours.

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