SENEGAL SCARE: Gay Witch Hunts & Lynchings


In Uganda, anti-gay hatred is manifested by newspapers printing of the names and faces of “gay suspects” and activists “storming Parliament” with their message to rid the nation of gays. But across the continent in Senegal, things aren’t any better for the gays. They’re being hunted down Jim Crow-style, with threats of lynchings.

Even though nine AIDS activists were just released from prison after their attorneys successfully argued the evidence for “unnatural acts” charges was insufficient, the climate is anything but tolerant. Rather, you have youth leaders calling for the lynching of gay men: “The homosexuals will not escape lynching. They will be fish food,” one told Dakar newspaper L’Observeur, according to GlobalPost.

Senegal is 95 percent Muslim, and Islamic law rules. “Homosexual acts” will land you five years in prison; the nine AIDS activists, however, where initially dealt eight-year sentences by an unsympathetic judge. And now that they’re free? They’re still scared for their lives. Continues GlobalPost:

Despite the men’s release, health and human rights groups are concerned about what the case could mean for the future of HIV/AIDS prevention work in Senegal, particularly in the homosexual community, one of the hardest hit by the disease.

“This has created a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety, threats against the activists in the community. It will take time to build that back up, so that they can … be certain that they can go about their AIDS prevention work in safe conditions,” said Daouda Diouf, head of the HIV/AIDS community response team at Enda Tiers Monde, a nonprofit organization.

As part of the team advocating for the men’s release and helping them seek refuge since then, Diouf and his organization have also been the targets of public rage. Getting the men out of Senegal will be difficult, not only for financial reasons but also because it must be done in secret — homophobia pervades even police and airport staff, Diouf said.

“They are in danger,” Diouf said. “It’s hard to hear people say such horrible things, such hate, but we [Enda] are still committed.”

Sensationalism in the media created confusion about the details of the case and fanned the flames of religious fervor and public hostility, Diouf said. Though acceptance of homosexuality is still many years away, he is optimistic it will come to Senegal, as it has to other countries.

“The question of homosexuality is a taboo question in Senegal,” Diouf said. “We will certainly have to take into consideration the realities of Senegalese society when we talk about [it]. There’s no question that we must confront this issue.”

Hopefully not like this:

“Gay men will never be free in Senegal. They expose us all to danger,” said Imam Mbaye Niang, a prominent religious leader and member of parliament. “The judges should understand that Senegalese people need to protect their children, their families from homosexuality.”

[…] Niang said that in Islam, the punishment for homosexuality is death. To be gay is a choice, he said, adding that he believes homosexuality is an impure, corruptive force threatening to infect Senegalese society, particularly its youth.

“In our society, homosexuality will never be accepted,” Niang said. “Our religion forbids it, so we can never accept it, even if it is accepted everywhere else in the world.”