Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males
  • Criminalises sexual activity between females

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 1965, which criminalises ‘unnatural acts’. This provision carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. Both men and women are criminalised under this law.

In 1960, Senegal officially gained independence from France, which had long since decriminalised same-sex sexual activity. As such the criminalising law is of local origin, having been adopted in the 1965 Penal Code.

There is substantial evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, with LGBT people being frequently subject to arrest and arbitrary detention where they are vulnerable to torture. There have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence against LGBT people in recent years, including murder, assault, mob attacks, harassment, and threats.



In August, ten people were arrested in an apartment at Cité Mixta, Parcelles Assainies, Dakar, for allegedly being homosexual. Another six were arrested at Plage BCEAO in Dakar earlier in the month after being lynched by a mob.


In April, two individuals were arrested in Médina Fall, in the city of Thiès, for allegedly engaging in gay sex.

In March, two couples having gay sex were caught by the police at the beach of Malika in the region of Dakar. Three people were arrested and one escaped.

In February, a gay couple was arrested at the filaos of Guédiawaye, in the region of Dakar. They were convicted to two years in prison.


Between September and December there were reports of an increased crackdown on LGBT people, with some 37 arrests. In December, a man was arrested following the online circulation of a video showing the man being attacked by a mob in the city of Touba. This followed an incident in October in which 25 people were arrested for attending what police claimed was a ‘gay marriage’.

We cannot ask Senegal to legalise homosexuality and organise tomorrow’s Gay Pride. It is not possible. Our society does not accept it.

President Macky Sall, 2020


In September, an Italian media outlet reported an incident in which two men, one 38 and the other 16, were arrested for allegedly having sex on the beach.


An article by Reuters noted that Human Rights Watch documented 39 cases of arrest between 2011 and 2016, in addition to dozens it was unable to verify. It also cited local human rights organisations who claimed that several arrests take place each year. Many people do not report, and those that do often face arrest and detention by police. 

In June, police raided a home without a warrant and arrested two people on suspicion of being gay. It was alleged that they were subjected to torture in detention, including beatings and electric shocks, and were denied food, water, and medical assistance. Four friends who were present at the raid were arrested when they went to the police station to inquire about the detainees. All were released and acquitted of all charges.

In the build-up to the 2019 election, reports emerged of a wave of politically-motivated arrests of LGBT people, with two men and two women being arrested in September.


In July, seven men were arrested without warrant and charged with ‘unnatural acts’ after the mother of one man reported him to the police. In August, the seven men were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, despite significant deficiencies in the prosecution case against them.

In December, 11 people were arrested for ‘unnatural acts’ for attending what officials described as a “gay marriage”.


The US Department of State report noted that enforcement of the law was haphazard, but that authorities prosecuted approximately ten cases each year.


report from the Canadian Immigration and Asylum Tribunal documented a number of arrests, some of which were successfully prosecuted.


In its first UPR cycle, Senegal discussed the prosecution of same-sex sexual activity, claiming that cases are only prosecuted when the relations take place in “public and were of an obtrusive nature, therefore placing them in conflict with morality and religion.”

Discrimination and Violence


In May, anti-LGBT groups who assembled to denounce homosexuality burned a rainbow flag and demanded a new more repressive anti-LGBT law to be passed. They also called for the criminalisation of homosexuality to be an issue at the next presidential election. This preceded attempts by lawmakers later in the year to strengthen the law against same-sex sexual activity (see above).

We will kill them, or we will burn them alive. We’ll never accept homosexuality.

Municipal official, Demba Dioup, 2021

Later in the year, reports and videos circulated of perceived LGBT people being assaulted by mobs. In June it was reported that at least four men had been attacked since the May rally, with a further 150 receiving threats, causing some to flee their homes.


The US Department of State report stated that LGBT people faced widespread discrimination, social intolerance, and acts of violence. This included threats, mob attacks, robberies, expulsions, blackmail, and rape.

In February, an angry mob killed a man accused of being gay following an argument ostensibly due to his mannerisms.

In November, an anti-LGBT organisation published a list of LGBT associations and their leaderships. Following public backlash, authorities closed the organisations.


In May, an LGBT art exhibition was shut down by the government after it was attacked by Islamic extremists.


Local Organisations

Collectif Free Sénégal

a local organisation set up in 2020 to support marginalised communities, including LGBT people, in the face of rising fundamentalism.

Related Countries

The Gambia

The Gambia criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.


Guinea criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment and a fine.


Mauritania criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death by stoning.

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