Eight men have been detained for two years for ‘imitating women’ at a birthday party in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania
- The men were convicted of “indecent acts” and “incitement to debauchery”
- Initially, the party was wrongly considered the first gay marriage in the country
- Human rights groups demand that the sentences be destroyed
- Homosexual behavior is punishable by the death penalty under Sharia law
Eight men have been convicted of “committing indecent acts” and “inciting debauchery” in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania after a video of them dancing at a party, originally considered a same-sex marriage, was shared on social media.
A local police commissioner acknowledged in a television interview on January 22 that this was not gay marriage, as was initially thought, but said the men were arrested for “imitating women.”
In addition to the eight years in prison for eight men, a woman received a one-year suspended sentence for ‘incitement to debauchery’ by being present at the event. The owner of the restaurant shown in the video has been acquitted.
“The Mauritania authorities have no business to send someone to prison to attend a peaceful birthday party,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “They must release everyone immediately who has been sentenced to two years for attending this party.”
When the video was first distributed online, he received a lot of public outrage because people thought it was Mauritania’s first gay marriage.
At that time there was a very real possibility that the men in the video could be sentenced to death.
Mauritania applies strict Islamic law, known as sharia law, and homosexual behavior among Muslim adults is punished with death for men, but there is a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in the country.
Eight men were sentenced to two years in prison in Mauritania after allegedly attending a same-sex marriage, the authorities of which later discovered to be a birthday party (photo)
The case shows a rare enforcement of Islamic law in Mauritania, which according to Human Rights Watch has not seen any cases where people were imprisoned or sentenced to death for homosexual acts.
In the police report to the courts, the partygoers were described as ‘imitating women’ and as ‘sodomizers’.
“The authorities seem to have imprisoned the eight defendants based on the fact that singing and dancing at a birthday party is a crime in Mauritania,” Reid said.
“Mauritania cannot shun its obligations to protect the basic rights of all its citizens without discrimination.”
Despite the discovery that the party was for someone’s birthday, the eight men were sentenced to two years behind bars for ‘imitating women’
According to the police report, the men admitted to be gay, but had no legal representation at the time.
During the trial, the defendants all pleaded not guilty and told their previous statements.
“It is a serious attack on the individual and collective freedom of these young people who have the right to show their differences and intimate preferences,” said Brahim Bilal, president of a human rights organization in Mauritania.
More than half of sub-Saharan countries, 28 out of 49, prohibit homosexuality, and in several countries it is punishable by death.
However, in recent years there has been a trend for countries to be more accepted, with Angola, Mozambique and the Seychelles legalizing homosexuality.