June 29th, 2011 – Behind The Mask
Religious Leaders Fuel Homophobia Says Amnesty International
by Jerina Chandze Messie
Amnesty International’s 2010 annual report on Senegal found that sermons by religious leaders fuel homophobia and undermine the fundamental rights of gay people in that country. The report was presented recently to media and civil society during a press conference held at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Dakar. Seydi Gassama, director of Amnesty International Senegal said, “The situation of human rights in Senegal is far from brilliant. Religious tolerance is one of the characteristic of Senegalese people and we can not tolerate religious leader that pronounce threats against homosexuals.”
El Hadj Abdoulaye, who is in charge of Campaigning and Training at Amnesty International Senegal, agreed, saying the recurrent homophobic statements from religious leaders were a serious concern. “The report is based on the year 2010. To our knowledge there was no significant incident against gay people reported during this year. However we deplore the attitude of some religious leaders whose recurrent sermons against homosexuality fuel homophobia in the general population,” he said.
Abdoulaye said the government should take its responsibility and reinforce the protection of gay people. “To date there is no specific law that protect this community. The penal code does not criminalize homosexuality, only acts against nature. We argue that when those acts are done in a private sphere it comes under the right to privacy,” he explained.
One of the organisations fingered in Amnesty International’s 2010 report is Jamra, a Muslim NGO which calls for harsher punishment for homosexuals. In response to the Amnesty report, Imam Massamba Diop, who is in charge of Jamra, reiterated his opposition to homosexuality arguing that gay people should be stoned as recommended in Islam.
“If Gassama has any advice to give he should give it to gay people so that they will give up those acts against nature. Imams and religious leaders are doing their duty when they raise concern on the issue of goorjigeen (gays in the local language) that is gaining ground in Senegal. It is our duty to denounce those acts forbidden by Islam. We do not ask people to stone gay people. It is Allah who says in the Koran “if you see two men having sex, stone them.”
In recent years Senegal has made headlines on the issue of homosexuality. In December 2008 nine men were arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison before being granted a pardon. In March 2009 the body of a gay man was exhumed from a cemetery in Touba by an angry mob that did not want a gay man to be buried in a Muslim cemetery.
July 26, 2011 – African Activist
Reporting About LGBTI Issues in the African Media
The Panos Institute West Africa in collaboration with the SAHARA Programme (Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS & Health Research Alliance) completed a study on how the Senegalese media reports on LGBTI issues. The results of the study are useful for thinking about how the media reports on LGBTI issues not just in Senegal but in other parts of Africa as well.
According to a summary of the report:
An analysis of the print media during critical periods that witnessed the rise of homophobia in 2008-2009 highlighted the production of an image of homosexuality that was based on the following ideas:
Homosexuality is portrayed as a new import from the West, supported by dark lobbying groups.
The image of homosexuality portrayed by the media is one of an existential threat against society and its sacred foundations
Resorting to violence against homosexuals is made legitimate by self-defence and "moral purification"
Homosexuality is illustrated in association with the fear of AIDS.
The analysis of the means of production of the media’s outlook indicates that several print media newspapers handled homosexuality with prejudice. The analysis of contents gives rise to several hypotheses:
The print media reproduced representations related to ignorance of the complexity of the stakes relating to human rights and HIV/AIDS (including a limited knowledge of social science research)
The media ignored the principles and rules related to the production of reliable information.
Use of the Media to Promote Prejudice Against the LGBTI Community The reporting about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 in Uganda, the use of homosexuality as a wedge issue in the Zambian elections and the recent outpouring of religious hate speech in the Malawi and Ghanaian media are recent examples of how the media helps promote prejudice against LGBTI persons.
Here are a few examples of media coverage in the above situations:
"100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak: Hang Them" (Rolling Stone, Uganda).
"David Bahati told journalists in Kampala today that though Kato’s death is unfortunate, it should open Ugandans’ eyes to the illegality of homosexuality. Bahati described kato as a humbled soul long and hard to see the future of children destroyed and marriages broken up by illegal acts. He says though his death may have had nothing to do with his acts, it has everything to do with the financial resources set to these individuals by donors, which could have attracted the attention of the assailants" (UG Pulse, Uganda).
"The church has vowed to campaign against Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata for advocating gay rights. And Chief Government spokesperson Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha said what Mr Sata is advocating is an abomination and the church must rise against such leaders" (Lusaka Times, Zambia).
"Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) Secretary General Sheikh Imran Sharif Mohammed said there is no way they can cooperate gays and lesbians in the community as it is against their doctrine. “Homosexuality is sin and is punishable by beheading. The Holy Koran clearly states that any community which indulges in these acts is calling for calamities like those that happened to Sodom and Gomorrah,” said Mohammed, a lecture at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College" (Nyasa Times, Malawi).
"The Western Region Minister Paul Evans Aidoo has ordered the immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the region. He has tasked the Bureau of National Investigations and all security agencies to smoke out persons suspected to be engaging in same sex. He also enlisted the services of landlords and tenants to provide reliable information which will lead to the arrest of homosexuals" (MyJoyOnline, Ghana).
These sustained media campaigns have serious consequences and have resulted in government threats to investigate LGBTI persons in Ghana, the harm of the Sata campaign in Zambia and possibly the murder of David Kato in Uganda (who was a plaintiff in the landmark legal victory against the Rolling Stone).
2011 September 19 – PubMed.gov
Knowledge, attitudes and practices related to STD and HIV/AIDS: Men having sex with men in Senegal
This study aimed to review knowledge, attitudes and practices related to sexual transmitted diseases (STD) and HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Senegal.
The study was undertaken from February 1(st) to June 30(th) 2007, in three capitals cities in Senegal (one national, and two regional). It concerned the MSM that benefited from at least one of services of an MSM association. Studied variables included socio demographic characteristics, sexual practices, as well as knowledge and attitudes related to STDs and VIH/AIDS. Interviews took place during appointments obtained by direct phone call or by two MSM leaders intermediary. Data were seized and analyzed with Epi2000 Software.
Among 245 registered MSM, 63 had a precise contact (address and/or phone number), and 49 aged in average of 25 years were investigated. Among them, one was illiterate, five studied Koran, seven Arab and 36 French. The socio-professional categories differentiated two officials, two merchants, one mechanic, one fighter, five artists, five restorers, seven tailors, 11 students, and 15 unemployed. The associations, to which 35 HSH belonged, were related to sexuality (66%), religion (20%), social matters (8%) and economy (6%). Sexual habits, according to anal intercourse, differentiated the "Ubbi" or receptive/passive (57%), the "Yoos" or incertif/active (25%), the "Ubbi/Yoos" who play the two roles (14%) and the "neitherUbbi/norYoos" who had other practices than anal (4%). Practices between men, concerned mutual strokes (100%), fellatio (61%) and anal intercourse (49%), counted 45% for remuneration, 35% of multi-unprotected partnership, and 12% of breaking condom. Practices with women were reported by 15 MSM (31%). Concerning STDs, at least one sign was reported by 43 MSM, one transmission way by 42, one mean of protection by 47; and the first recourse was a health system for 36 MSM. The test of HIV/AIDS screening was done by 38 HSH among which 30 withdrew the results. The "Ubby" adhered much more to associations, and practiced less unprotected vaginal intercourses and multi partnerships.
Sexual relations between men, in Senegal, constitute a factor of propagation for STDs and HIV/AIDS. Beliefs, values, and popular reactions still limit the big principles (liberty, equality, solidarity, and participation) of preventive and curative care. Therefore, ethics and effectiveness must be conciliated to face more MSM needs, for a better health of the populations.