Despite my celebrating the recent Uganda high court decision in favor of several lesbians abused by police, we still obviously have a long way to go. This past week, a Senegalese court sentenced 8 gay men who worked for AIDES Senegal (an organization that provides condoms and HIV treatment, in a country that has one of the lowest prevalence rates on the continent) to 8 years in prison for “homosexual acts.” Ironically, the country just played host to a regional gathering of the International AIDS Conference. The BBC reports:
“This is the first time that the Senegalese legal system has handed down such a harsh sentence against gays,” said Issa Diop, one of the men’s four defence lawyers. Mr Diop said he would be appealing against the sentences.
The IGLHRC’s Cary Alan Johnson said he was “deeply disturbed” by the case.
“There have been pretty consistent human rights violations… in Senegal,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme from Cape Town in South Africa.
“But the extremity of this sentence [and] the rapidness of the trial all really shocks us in a country which has been moving so positively towards rule of law and a progressive human rights regime.”
According to the website Behind the Mask (which documents what’s happening to LGBT people on the African continent.), the law governing “homosexual acts” reads (in English) as follows:
“Without prejudice to the more serious penalties provided for in the preceding paragraphs or by articles 320 and 321 of this Code, whoever will have committed an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex will be punished by imprisonment of between one and five years and by a fine of 100,000 to 1,500,000 francs. If the act was committed with a person below the age of 21, the maximum penalty will always be applied”
Human Rights Watch has also issued a statement demanding their release.