As Senegal homophobes seek law to jail all LGBTQ, advocates fight back

A group of anti-LGBTQ lawmakers in Senegal has drafted a bill to increase the country’s repression of its LGBTQI citizens — a measure that the LGBTQ rights group the Free Collective says would be tragic for the nation’s sexual minorities and their families.

Anti-LGBTQ activist Ababacar Mboup speaks at a May 23, 2021, protest in Senegal that called on Muslims to oppose homosexuality with violence, if necessary.

The bill would make simply being an LGBTQI person a crime, according to both supporters and opponents of the bill.

In addition, if the bill passes, anyone writing, speaking or financing advocacy in favor of LGBTQ rights would face penalties of three to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 to 5 million CFA francs (US $860 to $8,600).

In Senegal, same-sex intimacy is already punishable by prison sentences of one to five years and/or a fine of up to 1,500,000 CFA francs (approximately US $2,577).

The draft legislation, a copy of which was obtained by the Free Collective, calls for prison sentences of five to 10 years, plus a fine of 1 million to 5 million CFA francs ($1,718 to $8,590) for “acts against nature”, which is defines as “lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, intersexuality, bestiality, necrophilia and other related practices”.

By listing “intersexuality” as a crime, the bill suggests that intersex babies — those born with ambiguous genitalia combining male and female characteristics — could be imprisoned for 10 years. Supporters of the bill defined “intersexuality” as “being adept at all imaginable sexual orgies”.

Attempted “acts against nature” would face the same penalties as engaging in same-sex intercourse.

The supporters of the bill claim that Senegal’s existing anti-LGBTQ law fails to criminalize homosexuality, forbidding only particular acts that are indecent or “against nature”. In the 55 years since that law was passed, they say, the nation’s social order and morality have been undercut by LGBTQ people to a “troubling and dangerous degree”.

They say that tightening Senegal’s anti-LGBTQ laws would remedy what they claim are shortcomings of the existing law.

Anti-LGBTQ lawmaker Alioune Souare said he had helped draft the bill. “We hope to present the proposal to the parliament before the end of the week,” he told Reuters.

CNN reported:

“It is unclear how much support the bill would win in parliament.

“Senegalese LGBT+ activist Djamil Bangoura called on the international community to pressure authorities to reject the new legislation.

” ‘When individual freedoms, in particular the most sacred — privacy between consenting adults — are attacked, then there is little time left to realize that democracy is in danger,’ he said.

“Same-sex relations remain taboo in many socially conservative African societies, where some religious groups have branded it a corrupting Western import. It is legal in only 22 of Africa’s 54 countries and punishable by death or lengthy prison terms in others, according to ILGA [the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association].

“In Senegal, LGBT+ activists also face smear campaigns and death threats, according to international rights group Amnesty International.”

The Free Collective issued this condemnation of the anti-LGBTQ bill:

Press release from the Free Collective of Senegal (translated from French)


Logo of the Free Collective

A bill in preparation for the past two years at the initiative of the Collective And Samm Djikko Yi aims to further criminalize homosexuality in Senegal by instituting a “crime of homosexuality” in a country where Article 319, paragraph 3, of the penal code already targets LGBTI people.

The bill provides for 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of between 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 CFA francs (7,600 euros) for any LGBTI person without further circumstance.

As a reminder, article 319, paragraph 3, of the current 1966 penal code provides for a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of 1,500,000 CFA francs (approximately 2,500 euros) for indecent or unnatural acts committed between individuals of the same sex.

Among the instigators of this freedom-killing bill are Ababacar Mboup [coordinator of the Say No to Homosexuality Alliance] and four deputies of the National Assembly of Senegal:

  • Mamadou Lamine Diallo (of the Tekki Movement and the Freedom and Democracy parliamentary caucus);
  • Cheikh Mamadou Abiboulaye Dièye, also known as Cheikh Bamba Dièye (of the Front for Socialism and Democracy/Benno Jubël; unallied with a parliamentary caucus);
  • Alioune Souaré, also known as Aliou Souaré (of the Reform Democrats and the presidential majority Benno Bokk Yaakaar parliamentary caucus) and
  • Moustapha Guirassy (of the Patriotic Convergence “Kaddu Askan Wi” and the Liberty and Democracy parliamentary caucus).

Today, the Free Collective of Senegal alerts the entire international community as well as human rights defenders to a bill whose ambition is to condemn both behavior and social categories without any context. In addition, professionals working in contact with the LGBTI community are in the crosshairs.

The bill would rip apart the democratic order in several ways:

  • The bill, including the supporters’ explanatory statements, would condemn not just specific activities but also LGBTI social categories. Thus, being attracted to and feeling love for a person of the same sex would be categorized as an unnatural act.
  • The bill would abridge LGBTI people’s legal rights, since no mitigating circumstances could be considered in LGBTI-related cases.
  • The bill targets a broad range of the public, since it covers transgender and intersex people as well as gays, lesbians and bisexuals, although its definition of intersexuality is perplexing (“the fact of being adept at any sexual orgy imaginable”).
  • This bill conflates LGBTI people with necrophiliacs in an obvious and malicious attempt to demonize them.

The supporters of the bill propose that any attempts to commit the “crime of homosexuality” should be prosecuted rapidly, which would further aggravate the arbitrary abuses that LGBTI people experience.

Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, who won this year’s prestigious Goncourt prize for his novel “De purs hommes” (“Of Pure Men”) about homosexuality and homophobia in Senegal. (Joel Saget photo courtesy of AFP)

Finally, human rights defenders and professionals working in close contact with this community would be liable to a sentence of between three and five years in prison in addition to a fine of between 500,000 and 5,000,000 CFA francs on the basis of any activities related to the “LGBT+ agenda”.

For example, the recent Goncourt Prize winner for 2021, [Senegal native] Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, could be imprisoned in his own country if he were to take part in a literary conference about his third novel, “De purs hommes,” which deals with homophobia in Senegal in very critical terms.

The Free Collective recalls that just two weeks ago a presumed homosexual was sentenced to five years in prison in Kaolack. The human rights situation for LGBTI people is already very difficult on a daily basis even before enduring several months of overheated rhetoric and political tension stirred up by such a bill.

Finally, the Free Collective does not want Senegalese families to experience  the tragedy of exclusion and rejection of LGBTI people as a result of the issue of homosexuality being used as a political tool.

Homosexuality has always existed in Senegal, as it has everywhere else, and LGBTI people are a full-fledged component of Senegalese society that has the right to respect, just like everyone else.

— Souleymane DIOUF (pseudonym), Senegalese activist and founder of the Free Collective, [email protected].

Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, December 14, 2021