Over the Christmas holidays, parliamentary lawmakers in Senegal rejected a proposed bill that sought to double the jail time for people convicted under the country’s anti-sodomy law and imprison anyone who advocated publicly in favor of LGBTQ rights.
Under the country’s current penal code, those convicted of committing “an indecent or unnatural act with an individual of his or her own sex” may be sentenced to up to five years in prison, and forced to pay a fine. The bill, as introduced last month, would have doubled that sentence to up to 10 years, plus a fine.
The bill would also have effectively scuttled free speech rights by imposing a sentence of three to five years in prison, plus a fine, for anyone who advocates for LGBTQ rights or decriminalization of homosexuality, even on their private social media accounts. It also would have imprisoned intersex individuals, though it was unclear why they were targeted specifically, other than for merely existing.
The measure was initiated by eleven deputies, primarily from the opposition parties, who were spurred on by demonstrations by conservatives and student Islamic groups, which hold significant clout in the Muslim-majority nation. But a majority of deputies called the issue a “false debate,” arguing that the opposition politicians were simply trying to use the law to bolster their anti-LGBTQ bona fides ahead of the local elections scheduled for Jan. 23 while trying to “hide hidden political objectives.”
“The current law in Senegal, which dates from 1966, is clear on this subject. There is no need to add or remove a comma,” the majority members of parliament said in a joint statement issued by its president, Aymérou Gningue, reports France TV Info.
Gningue added that the acts targeted by the proposed law “are already clearly banned and punished by law in Senegal.”
LGBTQ advocates had feared that President Macky Sall, a fierce opponent of LGBTQ rights, would have signed the harsher penalties into law if the bill had passed parliament. Sall never took a position on the bill, but has previously resisted calls to decriminalize homosexuality, citing “Senegalese cultural specificities.”
Similar to leaders of other African nations that also criminalize homosexuality — either with prison or a death sentence — Sall has argued that Western nations are attempting to impose their cultural values onto the country by promoting homosexual behavior that many Senegalese find repugnant.
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