Somali lesbians sentenced to death

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IRIN - Somalia, 22 February - A Somali lesbian couple has been sentenced to death by an Islamic court in Bosaso, the commercial capital of the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeast Somalia, according to IRIN and other media. It is the first case of its kind in culturally conservative Somalia, where homosexuality is prohibited.

They were taken to the Bosaso Islamic court on 19 February, where they said they living together as "man and wife". The Bosaso court found the two unnamed women guilty of "exercising unnatural behaviour" and sentenced them to death by stoning in a verdict difficult to defend even within the Muslim Shari'a laws. 

According to local sources interviewed by IRIN, the relationship between the two women became an issue when one went to the Puntland authorities to complain that her partner had "mistreated" her by refusing to pay for medical treatment. 

According to media reports, the sentence caused general applauds in the Bosaso public. A crowd of several hundred people had packed the court to hear the case. The crowd allegedly "cheered as the judge handed down death sentences on the two women," according to a BBC report. 

The sentence and punishment have not been officially confirmed. Somali media however report that a date for the executions is expected to be announced this week. Human rights organisations in Somalia have yet to react to the ruling, according to the BBC. Reactions are however not expected as homosexuality is a matter rarely mentioned in the Somali public. 

Somaliland, Puntland and SomaliaPuntland is the northeastern province of Somalia, declared as an independent state while awaiting the formation of a "federal Somalia". The Mogadishu government does not control the region. Puntland uses Somali laws, which are loosely based on the Muslim Shari'a laws. 

The case has also achieved some international attention, and the first protests to this human rights violation are already coming. UN sources say that the UN is opposed to the death sentence "as a matter of principle" and that stoning to death was "inhuman treatment". The Human Rights Declaration still does not provide for the freedom of sexual orientation, making international protests limited to the matter of death sentences. Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries, and although its prosecution is seldom, oppression often is harsh.

Imprisonment for gay web site in Egypt
In a another case in Egypt, two men were convicted by a Cairo court of "committing an indecent act" on February 20 for posting material on a web site, according to the gay newspaper PlanetOut News. Calling the men's actions "unprecedented" in the nation, the court said the men "abused the technological revolution to do their disgraceful act that defames Egypt." The two men were sentenced to three years and fifteen months in prison. Egyptian attitudes towards homosexuality generally are lax for being a Muslim country. 

Sources: Based on BBC, PlanetOut News, IRIN and afrol archives.

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