Senegal Justice Minister: Law criminalizing homosexuality here to stay

Sidiki Kaba

Sidiki Kaba

DAKAR, Senegal — Senegal’s new Justice Minister says the country’s law criminalizing homosexuality is here to remain, despite previously leading a campaign for LGBT rights.

Sidiki Kaba, who previously headed the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and campaigned for legalizing same-sex relations, announced that he will no longer call for the anti-gay law to be repealed.

Sidiki Kaba

“I am a minister of justice who works in the context of a government and who expresses his views through those of the head of state which apply to all those who serve under him,” he stated at a press briefing in Dakar on Thursday.

Senegal’s New Prime Minister Aminata Toure named the veteran human rights campaigner as Justice Minister after President Macky Sall appointed her and fired his entire cabinet Sunday without explanation.

Kaba, who was FIDH chairman since 2001, called for the legalization of homosexuality in a 2009 interview with television station France 24.

“I was expressing (the position) of my organization,” Kaba told local press on Thursday when asked about the quote.

Sall previously clashed with, and rejected calls by, U.S. President Barack Obama for Senegal and other African countries to stop punishing LGBT people and legislate equal rights for all.

During Obama’s visit to Dakar in June, Sall publicly rebuffed Obama, saying Senegal was “not yet ready to decriminalize homosexuality.”

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“Society needs to take its time to reflect on the question without pressure. We don’t persecute homosexuals in Senegal. Society will regulate this as attitudes evolve,” he said.

Senegal, a conservative and predominantly Muslim country in northwest Africa, specifically outlaws same-sex sexual acts; article 319 prohibits ‘unnatural sexual acts” and punishes homosexuality with one to five years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 ($200) to 1,500,000 Senegal Francs ($2,000).

A June 2013 Pew Research Center survey noted that Senegal was extremely hostile to LGBT people with at least nine of 10 stating that homosexuality should not be accepted by society.

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