Efforts by a group of MPs in Senegal to further clamp down on LGBTIQ people and dramatically increase jail time for those prosecuted for their sexuality have been thwarted.
It’s been reported that on 25 December the country’s parliament rejected a bill that would have doubled the penalty for same-sex sex from 5 years to 10 years in jail.
The proposed legislation, which was supported by religious leaders, would also have criminalised LGBTIQ people and their identity in general as well as activists who work to support LGBTIQ equality and rights.
Aymérou Gningue, head of the majority parliamentary group, said that existing laws are “clear on this subject” and the acts specified by the bill “are already clearly banned and punished by law in Senegal.”
He accused the lawmakers who proposed the bill of wanting to “install a false debate in this pre-election period” and having “hidden political objectives”.
The existing penal code outlaws “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.
Cheikh Bamba Dieye, one of the proponents of the bill, argues that it’s vital that Senegal “protects” itself from foreign values being imposed by the west.
“The penal code in its current state is evasive. It is not precise, And what we are talking about is not simply the criminalisation of homosexuality,” he said. “It is about giving meaning to a national project according to which the Senegalese people have chosen a way of life that seems to be the most in line with their moral, religious and historical convictions.”
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.