Anti-Gay Violence on the Rise in Senegal, Rights Group Says

Violence against homosexual men in Senegal has escalated in the past two years and may continue to rise before a presidential election in 2012, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

Incidents of mob beatings, arbitrary arrests, police brutality and public discrimination and lynching were reported to the New York-based group and published in a report today released in the Dakar, the Senegalese capital.

The West African nation is one of 38 African countries that criminalizes homosexuality, and has become one of Africa’s most “abusive” enforcers of such laws, said Boris Dittrich, Human Rights Watch’s acting director for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program.

“When elections are coming up and politicians are under scrutiny, all of a sudden there is more focus on homosexuality, because that’s a very easy target,” Dittrich said in a phone interview from New York.

Ousmane Sarr, a spokesman for Senegal’s Security Forces, was not available to comment when called today. Cire Sy, spokesman for the country’s Interior Ministry, was also not immediately available to respond to the report.

Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade has yet to publicly announce whether he will seek another term in the election, scheduled for 2012.

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