- The gay and lesbian community in Senegal last year shattered last year, after the local press published private photos of a gay wedding, causing fierce reactions from the police, religious leaders and ordinary citizens. Now, the community gathers strength to start fighting for gay rights in Senegal.
Last year, two young men celebrated their love with a wedding ceremony in Dakar, Senegal, complete with photographs, guests, and vows. Months later, many who attended the wedding faced a nightmare when they found that the photographer had sold the wedding photos to a national tabloid.
Many of the photos were published, complete with screaming headlines decrying homosexuality. The photos and the hatred were republished for months throughout Senegal, creating a firestorm of hatred and hostility mostly among religious conservatives.
Within days, 17 people whose photos appeared in the magazine were hounded, driven from their homes, harassed, threatened and arrested. One man, Soulyman, jumped from a third floor window to avoid arrest, only to be captured and brutally interrogated despite a broken leg and other serious wounds.
Pape Mbaye sought safety in neighbouring Gambia. That is, until Gambian President Yahya Jammeh vowed to kill any homosexual found in his country and commanded landlords and hotels owners to turn away lesbian and gay people. With the help of the international community, Pape was eventually able to make his way to New York.
Qusmane, a 24-year old man, was easily identified in the photos. The police came to his home. Not finding him, they arrested his French-national boyfriend and deported him. Qusmane was shunned by friends and neighbours, his mother was fired from her job, and his family members were attacked by mobs. Qusmane went into hiding, hoping the situation would clear. Eventually, though, he too had to leave his country.
While those arrested have by now been released, "the wide public exposure and ensuing hateful response stoked by religious conservatives continues to plague them," the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reports from Dakar today. "They will never regain the lives they had. The scars and fear have impacted the entire LGBT community in Senegal," IGLHRC added.
The New York-based organisation today announced its increased aid to Senegal's gay and lesbian community to "re-group, and to turn this tragedy into positive action." IGLHRC had stepped in to respond to the arrests and condemn the violence already last year, but now hopes to be able to turn from emergency aid to the development of a forceful Senegalese movement fighting for less discrimination of sexual minorities and increased legal rights.
"In Senegal, the laws and social attitudes leave no place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to live in safety," IGLHRC says in a statement. The organisation, in cooperation with Senegalese groups, now was "dedicated to changing that." IGLHRC further pleaded for donations to help it intensify its work in Senegal and other countries were sexual minorities are abused.
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