DAKAR, Senegal (AP) – The National Assembly of Senegal has rejected a bill that would have doubled the prison sentence for those convicted of homosexuality, which is illegal in the country, although supporters of the law committed to continue their efforts.
The bill backed by a dozen MPs would have increased the maximum sentence from five years to 10. But MPs from President Macky Sall’s coalition had previously said they found the measure unnecessary and on Wednesday it was formally rejected.
The National Assembly office issued a statement saying that Sall had already made it clear that homosexuality would not be legalized and that it was already “severely punished by the Senegalese penal code”.
Sheikh Mbacke Bara Dolly, an opposition leader in parliament, criticized his colleagues in the ruling coalition for rejecting the bill without further debate.
“They should have let the process come to an end,” he said Thursday. “This rejection will empower the LGBT community.
Human rights groups and Western leaders have pressured Senegal to relax its laws against sexual minorities, raising the issue during business trips to the West African country in recent years.
Homosexuality prosecutions in Senegal were rare, although human rights activists say arrests are on the rise. Discrimination continues to run deep in this moderate, predominantly Muslim country where the bodies of homosexuals have even been exhumed from cemeteries after their families buried them there.