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Five women arrested under Senegal's anti-gay law

BY ROBBIE COREY-BOULET
ASSOCIATED PRESS

DAKAR, Senegal -- Senegalese police detained five women accused of violating the country's anti-gay law, highlighting increased pressure on suspected lesbians in the deeply conservative West African nation, an activist group said Tuesday.

The five women were detained early Monday morning during a birthday party at a restaurant in Dakar's Yoff district that has been described in the Senegalese press as a meeting point for gay men and lesbians, said Ndeye Kebe, president of the activist group Women's Smile.

The oldest of the suspects, 31-year-old Sene Dieng, is an assistant director at Women's Smile, the only group in Senegal to advocate for lesbians' rights.

The five women were expected to appear in court Tuesday, though Kebe said they had been unable to afford a lawyer.

Senegal's penal code calls for prison sentences of up to five years and fines of up to $3,000 for committing "an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex." Since 2008, the Muslim-majority country has been gripped by what Human Rights Watch describes as an anti-gay "moral panic," with arrests and mob justice on the rise.

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