A deeply unsettling incident in Senegal, in which a man’s body was reportedly exhumed and set on fire, has sent shockwaves through the nation. The episode has prompted an official investigation in this conservative country, where homophobia remains pervasive.
The disturbing events unfolded at a cemetery in the central city of Kaolack, where the culprits arrived on a Saturday evening to locate the grave of a man interred just the day before, as stated by the public prosecutor.
Although the media reports suggest that the body was targeted due to the deceased man’s sexual orientation, it’s important to note that the prosecutor’s statement did not explicitly mention this aspect, and AFP has not been able to independently verify the claim.
The incident was captured in videos widely shared on local and social media, showing a group of people gathered around a substantial fire, with some individuals recording the scene on their mobile phones.
Senegal’s legal framework classifies homosexual activities as “against nature” and stipulates a potential prison sentence of up to five years for those found guilty.
Homosexuality has historically faced resistance in Senegal, and the events that allegedly transpired on Saturday night are seen by many as an affront to the dignity and respect owed to the deceased.
The Senegalese judiciary swiftly responded by announcing an investigation to identify and hold accountable those responsible for this disturbing act of desecration.
A local police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the arrest of four individuals believed to be among the instigators in Kaolack. However, further details were not disclosed.
Although rare, this is not the first instance of someone presumed to be gay having their body exhumed in Senegal. Earlier documented cases occurred in the central and western regions of the country between 2008 and 2009. Yet, there is no recent record of such a public cremation.
Amnesty International has long decried the deteriorating conditions faced by the LGBTQ community in Senegal, many of whom are forced to conceal their identities or seek refuge abroad to evade persecution.
In 2021, official figures indicated that the majority of the 1,300 Senegalese asylum applications in France cited persecution related to sexual orientation.
In this predominantly Muslim West African nation, there is a prevalent belief that homosexuality is a Western imposition on their society, leading to sporadic anti-LGBTQ demonstrations calling for more stringent legislation.
Numerous media outlets reported that the deceased man’s family initially attempted to bury him in Senegal’s holy city of Touba. However, allegations of his sexual orientation had preceded his burial, resulting in the denial of permission.