The war-zone for gay rights groups: Senegal jails, Gambia threatens to slit throats

Mustapha K Darboe

“If you do it [in The Gambia] I will slit your throat,” President Yahya Jammeh said in a public speech in the Wolof language in May while on a farmers’ tour in rural Gambia.

“If you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.”

President Macky Sall

President Macky Sall

Barely three months on, Macky Sall, the President of neighboring Senegal and the chairman of the Ecowas has pushed what has apparently become the region’s agenda one step further.

According to a BBC report, seven men have been jailed for six months in Senegal, after they were found guilty of homosexuality.

A court in Dakar heard police caught the men having sex during a raid.

The mother of one of the accused told the authorities her son was gay, but she failed to show up as a prosecution witness at the trial.

Homosexuality is banned in the West African country. It is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $2,500 (£1,500).

Defence lawyer, Abdoul Daff, said the mother’s failure to appear in court should have caused the case to collapse.

“There was neither material evidence nor testimony in order to corroborate the claims,” he added.

“So, we take note of this and we will see what to do next.”

Senegal’s population, like Gambia, is more than 95% Muslim, and people in same-sex relationships are often forced to hide their sexuality.

Gay rights activist Djamil Bangoura from the group Prudence said he was disappointed by the verdict.

“It is such a pity to see these Senegalese men condemned in front of everyone just because they are gay,” he added.

During a recent trip to Kenya, US President Barack Obama called on African nations to ensure gay men and women are treated equally.

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 countries on the continent and is punishable by death in Sudan, Mauritania, Somalia and northern Nigeria.

President Jammeh has in November 2014 signed a law on “aggravated homosexuality”.

The law introduced life imprisonment for homosexual men and women who are sentenced for repeating the “offence”, or who are HIV-positive or sick with AIDS.

President Yahya Jammeh

President Yahya Jammeh

However, the President might have so much support within for calling gays “vermin” but his actions did not get down well with the European Union and America.

The European Union, in December 2014, cut off some €13 million of humanitarian aid for The Gambia due to its “poor human rights record” while the US take the country out of AGOA.

While the language of the Ecowas chairman might not have been clear enough, a new opinion poll suggested that 87% of people in Nigeria, the regional super-power, support the legal ban on same-sex relations.

However, the gay rights groups that did the polling said that number is lower than five years ago, when 96% of Nigerians opposed relationships between same-sex couples.

The Nigerian government also tightened anti-gay laws in 2014, banning same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection.

Campaigners said the laws are among the most draconian anywhere – and impose a sentence of up to 14 years in prison for same-sex couples.

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