9 men jailed for homosexual acts

January 8, 2009 6:33:55 AM PST
Nine men, including a prominent activist, have been convicted of homosexual acts and sentenced to eight years in prison, a gay rights group said Thursday. Diadji Diouf, who heads an organization that provides HIV prevention services to gay men in Senegal, and the others were arrested Dec. 19 in a raid on Diouf's apartment.

The men were sentenced Wednesday for unnatural acts and criminal conspiracy, said Joel Nana, Africa research and policy coordinator with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Cape Town, South Africa.

"This is the first case that we've heard of in Senegal where people actually got sentenced," Nana said. He called the sentences long and harsh.

Diouf's organization, AIDES Senegal, provides condoms and HIV treatment out of his home.

The arrests came just weeks after Senegal hosted an international AIDS conference that included gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants.

"It is a strong message of hatred, a strong message of division when we know it is critical at this point to address HIV in these communities," Nana said.

Senegal, a primarily Muslim nation in West Africa, is one of 38 countries on the continent that criminalize homosexual acts, Nana said. South Africa prompted continentwide controversy in 2006 when it became the first African country to legalize gay marriage.