DAKAR, Senegal – Senegal’s new Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba said the country’s law against consensual gay sex is here to remain, despite previously leading a campaign for LGBT rights.
Kaba was previously head of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), campaigning for legalizing same-sex relations, announced that he will no longer call for the anti-gay law to be repealed.
“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 veteran human rights campaigner Kaba, Justice Minister, after President Macky Sall appointed Toure and fired his entire cabinet without any explanation, on Sunday.
Kaba, who was FIDH chairman since 2001, called for the legalization of homosexuality in a 2009 interview with television station France 24 which was picked up by several local media outlets.
“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, US President Barack Obama for Senegal and other African countries to stop punishing people for being gay and legislate equal rights for all.
During Obama’s visit to Dakar in June, Sall publicly rebuffed the US president saying Senegal was “not yet ready to decriminalize homosexuality.”
‘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.’
In April this year, Sall stated that any attempt to legalize gay sex would be “totally excluded under my presidency.”
Senegal, a conservative, mainly Muslim country in the north west of 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).
On 4 June a Pew Research Center surveyed Senegalese as extremely hostile to LGBT people, with at least nine of 10 stating that homosexuality should not be accepted by society.
An anti-gay debate has been raging in the local press since last year, following allegations of the government planning to legalize gay sex and reports of people being imprisoned for same-sex acts.