A court in the now homophobic African country of Ivory Coast found two men guilty of public indecency after they were accused of engaging in same-sex sexual acts, local activists said on Wednesday.
It was the first case of its kind in a country known for its relative tolerance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said Franklyn Koffi, advocacy director for Espace Confiance, a group that provides health services to sexual minorities. The two men, aged 31 and 19, received three-month prison sentences, he said.
The men denied having a sexual relationship, Espace Confiance said in a statement.
The verdict was handed down on November 3 by a court in Sassandra, a coastal town more than 250km west of Abidjan, the commercial capital. A copy was not available on Wednesday.
Court officials declined to answer questions about the case, saying the trial was public and all relevant information was described for those who attended.
Ivory Coast does not criminalise same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults. However, the penal code does criminalize public indecency, though there are no other known cases of this provision being used to target people engaged in same-sex sexual conduct, Koffi said.
“We are revolted by what is happening and by the judgment that was given,” said Koffi, who spoke to the 31-year-old suspect by phone.
Despite its tolerant reputation compared to other West African countries, Ivory Coast has no legal protections for sexual minorities, who are often subjected to discrimination including verbal harassment and physical violence.
In January 2014, a mob ransacked the Abidjan headquarters of the country’s most prominent gay rights organization.
Last June, several gay men said they’d been assaulted and forced to flee their homes after the U.S. Embassy published a photo of them signing a condolence book for victims of that month’s killings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
** Source: Associated Press **