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Senegal: Women demonstrate against 'rape culture' in Dakar

A protester from the Senegal Feminist Collective   -  
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SEYLLOU/AFP or licensors

Violence against women

Dozens of feminist demonstrators on Saturday in Dakar, Senegal's capital denounced the justice system and the excessive tolerance towards violence against women in Senegal.

Aissatou Sène, spokeswoman at the protest held at the Place de la Nation, said "We expect the state to provide structures, shelters, and everything needed to support victims. What we want from the state today is for women, who make up more than half the population, to feel safe."

"We are here for all the "Louise", we are especially here for a "Louise" who was raped, filmed and this pornographic film of a minor was shared and the author did not worry until we, the feminists, denounced it. The trigger is this violence that Senegalese women are subjected to. If justice and the law were applied and rapists received the sentences they deserved, we wouldn't be here today." Sène stressed.

in January 2020, Senegal passed a law that criminalises rape and paedophilia after active campaigns by civil society, particularly organizations advocating for women’s rights. The law aimed at tightening the noose on sexual violence against women and children, prescribes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for perpetrators and 10-year imprisonment as a minimum sentence.

Before now, rape was only considered a minor offence in the West African nation, with offenders getting little to no punishment. However, the massive campaign that followed the rape and murder of two women in 2019 propelled the government into drafting the newly adopted law. 

Earlier this year, tensions broke out in the country after popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was arrested over an alleged rape case. The days of clashes and protests left at least five people dead but depsite the case being meshed with politics, it brought to the fore yet again the subject of rape in Senegal.

The allegations against Sonko first emerged in February after a salon attendant accused him of rape. He was reported to have frequented the salon for massages. 

The accuser, a young woman by the name Adji Sarr, in a rare, bold and unprecendented move in Senegal came forward and granted interviews.

“If Ousmane Sonko has never slept with me, let him swear on the Koran,” said Sarr in the interview, which was broadcast by a number of private television channels. She stressed that Sonko had forced her to have sex on several occasions and threatened reprisals if she did not comply.

Sonko, 46, a devout Muslim who has a considerable following amongst the country's youth, has repeatedly denied the allegations.

He was detained by police and charged with public disorder after fights with his supporters broke out as he went to court. He would later be released.