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AHRC Issues Warning to Gays as Senegal President Postpones Election

by Melanie Nathan, February 04, 2024, Country Conditions Expert witness for asylum seekers from Senegal and other African countries.


The Senegal president, Macky Sall, citing a dispute between the national assembly and the constitutional court over rejection of candidates, postponed the Senegalese election hours before official campaigning was to start.


Senegal is a country where LGBTQI+ People are criminalized, persecuted, and violently victimized. Political instability and unrest always has the most vulnerable minorities in heightened danger. President Sall's announcement of the indefinite postponement has provoked anger from opposition figures and a ministerial resignation. His appointed successor, Amadou Ba, is viciously anti LGBTI and even sponsored harsher anti-gay legislation in 2021. while no direct correlation, this, like any political upheavel can be a situation where LGBTI people become fodder ripe for scapegoating and so here at AHRC we issue a warning for extreme caution by LGBTI people during this time of potential political unrest.





The Guardian: "In an address to the nation on Saturday, Sall said he had postponed the vote that would have decided his successor because of a dispute between the national assembly and constitutional court over the rejection of candidates. Lawmakers are investigating two constitutional council judges whose integrity in the election process has been questioned. “I will begin an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election,” Sall added, without giving a new date."


"Under Senegal’s election code, at least 80 days must pass between the publication of the decree setting the date and the election, so the earliest a vote could now be held is late April.


Just hours after Sall’s announcement, Abdou Latif Coulibaly, the secretary general of the government who has acted as its spokesman, announced his resignation. He was quitting because he wanted to have “full and complete freedom” to defend his political convictions.


This is the first time a Senegalese presidential election has been postponed and adds to growing political tension.


The west African bloc Ecowas expressed “concern over the circumstances that have led to the postponement of the elections”, calling for dialogue and an expedited process to set a new date.


The US state department also urged Senegal to “swiftly” set a date for a “timely, free and fair election”."


The country conditions in Senegal for LGBTI people, those perceived as such result in:

·      Violence by state and non-state actors, to include kidnapping, detention, torture, assault, mob attack, “mob” or vigilante justice, disappearance, and killing;

·      Arrest, imprisonment, unlawful detention to include torture;

·      Ostracization, banishment, eviction, firing, blackmail/extortion, refusal of services;

·      Psychological abuse, reparative therapies, and exorcisms;

·      General discrimination in all spheres of life


Approximately 95% of Senegal’s population practices Islam, with about 4% Christian, and a small segment adhering to the traditional indigenous practices.[1] 


Public attitudes toward homosexuality in the Muslim world underwent a marked change starting from the 19th century through the global spread of Islamic Jihadists and fundamentalist movements, that has made being LGBTI more dangerous for members of the Muslim faith and anyone living in Islam dominant countries.


While occidental countries moved into decriminalization and equality such as legalizing same-sex marriage, Muslim-majority or influenced countries retained criminal penalties for homosexual acts enacted under European Colonial rule. In recent times, in most of the Muslim world, to include influence in African countries like Senegal, extreme prejudice, discrimination and violence against LGBTI people, those imputed or perceived as such and allies, has increased.


The ascribed punitive measures range from banishment to lashings to death and include Sharia law and honor killings.


In Senegal, same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under Article 319 of the Penal Code 1965 of Senegal, which criminalizes ‘unnatural acts.’ This provision carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. Both men and women are criminalized under this law.


In 1960, Senegal officially gained independence from France, which had long since decriminalized same-sex sexual activity. As such the criminalizing law is of local origin, having been adopted in the 1965 Penal Code. There is substantial evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, with LGBT people being frequently subject to arrest and arbitrary detention where they are vulnerable to torture. There have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence against LGBT people in recent years, including murder, assault, mob attacks, harassment, and threats.[1]


Melanie Nathan in country conditions expert witness reporting notes: "In December 2021, a group of Senegalese lawmakers tried to introduce legislation that would double the length of jail terms for those convicted of same-sex activities to between five and ten years. The bill brought by political opponents of President Macky Sall has been presented as a political challenge and test of his anti-Western credentials, with one sponsor of the bill, Amadou Ba, stating that “Not to vote on the bill criminalizing homosexuality will be equivalent to its legalization.” "


Later in December the bill was rejected by Parliament, with critics claiming that this was a “political weaponization of the debate over LGBTQ issues” before local elections.[2] The gays could become convenient political pawns, yet again.


When brought back the Bill was rejected. The populace seeks its passage and so it will likely continue to be reintroduced as new representatives get elected. This is further mentioned herein after.


Since 2021, the trend in Africa and West Africa has been to legislate in more clarifying terms by referring directly to homosexual acts and same sex relationships rather than old penal code language which denotes “unnatural acts,” or “carnal knowledge” leaving codes open to interpretation. In keeping with the current trend for heightened and more robust anti-homosexuality legislation in the region and across Africa, there is a popular coalition developing to bring back legislation for introduction into Senegal’s Parliament.


This trend has been heightened by Uganda’s President Museveni’s calling upon all Africa to follow Uganda’s example of the new Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, dubbed “The Kill the Gays Bill” and for leaders to “rid the world of homosexuality.” Nearby Ghana is in also in the process of enacting the: THE PROMOTION OF PROPER HUMAN SEXUAL RIGHTS AND GHANAIAN FAMILY VALUES BILL, 2021, which will make merely identifying “holding out” as LGBTQI a crime punishable by ten years to life in prison. The trend is to include in such legislation the criminalization and imprisonment of those who “promote” homosexuality, which could mean the mere possession or ownership of a rainbow flag, as well as the closure of human rights and support organizations.


In Senegal the code is dangerous and feared by LGBTI people, not only for actual prosecutions but because of the code serves to license discrimination, violence and oppression for LGBTI where anti-homosexuality sentiment is extremely high, at the hands of state and non-state actors alike.  


THE U.S. 2022 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT FOR SENEGAL: "Senegal is a republic dominated by a strong executive branch. In 2019, voters reelected Macky Sall as president for a second term of five years in elections local and international observers considered generally free and fair. Observers judged the July legislative elections to be also generally free and fair." This relative calm and peace is now subject to its ultimate test, and gays, lesbian, trans, bisexual, queer, non-binary and intersex people, their allies, advocates and anyone perceived as such much exercise great caution.


By MELANIE NATHAN

Melanie Nathan, Executive Director of African Human Rights Coalition is a qualified country of origin expert witness in the United States and global immigration courts, providing expert written country conditions  reports and testimony for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, non-binary, LGBTQI + asylum seekers from African Countries, to include activists, allies and human rights defenders.

Melanie also consults multinational corporations regarding briefings and policy for operations and issue impacted by anti-homosexuality laws and country conditions.


[2] CNN Article, by Reuters, Senegalese lawmakers draft new legislation targeting LGBT community, https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/14/africa/senegal-lgbt-legislation-intl/index.html

 


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