Nine gay men in Dakar, Senegal, were jailed for eight years Jan. 6 for the crimes of having gay sex and belonging to a â€ścriminal association,â€ť an HIV-services group.
On Dec. 19, police raided the apartment of gay leader Diadji Diouf, arrested him and the other men, and confiscated condoms and lubricants. The men were taken to a police station and held until Dec. 24, then transferred to a detention center, where they were held until trial. Human Rights Watch said the men were beaten while in custody.
According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the menâ€™s lawyers had only limited access to case files and little time to prepare for the hearing. At the trial, prosecutors reportedly used the confiscated condoms and lube as evidence that the men had engaged in gay sex.
The men received the maximum five-year sentence for engaging in what the Penal Code calls â€śan improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sexâ€ť and three additional years for being members of the HIV-services organization AIDES SĂ©nĂ©gal, the â€ścriminal association.â€ť
â€śIGLHRC is deeply concerned by what appears to be a violation of the right to a free and fair trial, the right to privacy and the right to freedom from discrimination,â€ť the group said.
â€śThese charges will have a chilling effect on AIDS programs,â€ť added Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watchâ€™s LGBT Rights Division. â€śOutreach workers and people seeking HIV prevention or treatment should not have to worry about police persecution. Senegal should drop these charges and repeal its sodomy law (which) invades privacy, criminalizes health work, justifies brutality and feeds fear.â€ť
HRW said the sentences have â€śproduced widespread panic among organizations addressing HIV and AIDS, particularly those working with men who have sex with men.â€ť
The arrests occurred several days after Senegal hosted the 15th International Conference on AIDS and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) in Africa. Presentations at the conference highlighted the contradictions in countries such as Senegal that aim HIV-prevention efforts at men who have sex with men but continue to criminalize same-sex relations.
Last February, 10 men and a woman were arrested in Dakar, the capital city, after a popular magazine published photographs of a purported marriage ceremony between two Senegalese men. Although the individuals were later released, â€śthe publicity and arrests created tremendous public animosity toward LGBT people in Senegal,â€ť IGLHRC said. â€śMany gay men and lesbians were attacked by mobs or driven from their homes,â€ť the organization said.
Russian Gay Web Site Chooses Top Stories Of 2008
The Web site GayRussia.ru posted its list of the top news stories of 2008 on Jan. 4. Domestically, the portal cited the end of the ban on blood donation by gay people, Moscowâ€™s third gay pride events, and the aborted gay film festival in St. Petersburg. â€śThe end of the ban on blood donation by homosexuals was the first positive normative action by the Russian authorities since the decriminalization of homosexual relation in 1993,â€ť the site said. â€śThe campaign by the activists of GayRussia lasted three years.â€ť
Moscowâ€™s third gay pride took place June 1. â€śDespite an impressive deployment of police in the streets of Moscow, the city authorities were unable to prevent ... two public rallies,â€ť the site said. About 35 activists misled police into going to the wrong location and then managed to stage a rally at the Tchaikovsky statue at the Moscow Conservatory and a very brief pride march. A bit later, they unfurled a big banner from an apartment balcony across from City Hall.
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has banned pride for three years running, calling it â€śsatanicâ€ť and charging that gay â€śpropagandaâ€ť contributes to the spread of HIV.
In St. Petersburg, the gay film festival â€śSide by Sideâ€ť was blocked from starting Oct. 2 by city officials who declared the clubs The Place and Sochi, where the films were to be screened, to be fire hazards. Originally, the festival was to take place in a state cinema house, which backed out of the deal. The festival then was moved to a private theater, which then backed out as well.
GayRussia.ru also named three â€śRussian Homophobes of 2008.â€ť Oleg Betin, governor of the Tambov Region, won for saying: â€śTolerance? To hell! Faggots should be torn apart and their pieces thrown in the wind.â€ť Mayor Luzhkov was selected for calling gay pride parades â€śweapons of mass destruction,â€ť among other strange remarks. And Russian MP Victor Ilyukhin snagged a spot for calling for the recriminalization of gay sex.
GayRussia said the top three international stories of the year were the fight for same-sex marriage in California, gay Australian Matthew Mitchamâ€™s gold-medal dive at the Beijing Olympics (the highest-scoring dive in Olympic history), and the Dec. 18 statement read to the United Nations General Assembly in which 66 nations called for the decriminalization of gay sex worldwide and affirmed that international human rights standards include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Anti-Gay British Sex Therapist Loses Discrimination Case
The British national counseling service Relate did not unlawfully discriminate when it fired a Christian sex therapist for refusing to treat gay couples, an employment tribunal has ruled. Relate sacked Gary McFarlane last March for violation of the agencyâ€™s nondiscrimination policy, according to a Jan. 9 report in The Telegraph. McFarlane filed an unfair-dismissal complaint, claiming religious discrimination.
But the tribunal determined that McFarlane was fired not because he is a Christian but because of his refusal to follow the agencyâ€™s rules. It said any other employee who took the same stance, regardless of why, would be dismissed as well.
-assistance: Bill Kelley