Lawmakers in Senegal stopped short of passing a parliamentary vote on a draft bill on Tuesday that would have toughened the West African country’s already strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
Same-sex sexual activity is already punishable in the country by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to about $2,500. International LGBTQ+ rights groups have said that arrests and persecution of queer people in the country have sharply risen in recent years.
In December, some lawmakers drafted new legislation that would have increased the maximum jail term from five years to 10 years, according to Reuters. It would also specifically criminalize LGBTQ+ activities. The current law, the news agency reports, only targets those who commit an “act against nature” with those of the same sex.
A fine could also be levied of up to $8,599, according to The Washington Blade.
The draft law would have also made promoting LGBTQ+ rights illegal, according to human rights blog 76 Crimes, which covers the anti-LGBTQ+ laws in 70+ countries.
Legislators from the bureau of Senegal’s national assembly — the group that decides what draft bill goes to parliament for a vote — rejected the draft bill.
In a statement, the bureau said the current law was enough.
“When individual freedoms, in particular the most sacred — privacy between consenting adults — are attacked, then there is little time left to realize that democracy is in danger,” Senegalese LGBTQ+ activist Djamil Bangoura told Reuters before the bill was stopped.
Human rights groups have continued to push Senegal to decriminalize same-sex sexual activity.
“Senegal's law criminalizing consensual sexual conduct is deeply destructive for many communities, particularly gay men,” Dipika Nath, researcher in the LGBTQ+ rights program at Human Rights Watch, said. “People live in constant fear of losing their jobs, their families, their livelihoods, their freedom, and their very lives because they are seen as different.”