Les meilleures joueuses sont des lesbiennes. (“The best players are lesbians”). This was the headline of the investigative story published on 21 March 2013 in the Senegalese daily newspaper Grand-Place.
The article set tongues wagging, and generated a heated debate in this conservative West African nation of 11 million Muslims – out of a total population of 13 million.
A few years later, Sifa News went to search every Senegal street, changing-room, training ground, stadium, sport office and mosque to find out more about the current state of lesbianism in the country’s sport.
“Lesbianism is not gaining ground, it’s rising in our sport, from soccer to basket-ball, athletics, hand-ball, and so on,” Fall*, a sport coach, tells Sifa News.
“I know at least three lesbian couples in my senior team, something that was unthinkable last year. I called everyone to order, threatened to throw out anybody who engages in such evil activities, but in vain.
“Because the best players are lesbians, I’m forced to live with the culprits as I have big dreams for this team in the future. But somehow I still feel guilty for not doing enough.”
One parent even told her talented daughter to stop playing sport due to the presence of gouines (local name for lesbians) in her team. She says: “My daughter told me they would cuddle in the changing room and kiss in the dark street corners on their way from the training ground.
“It’s disgusting, these lesbo players should be sent packing because our sport is being infested with un-African practices,” a furious Aminata* adds.
Dakar-based Imam Abdoulaye* tells Sifa News: “Every God-fearing parent would exactly do what this woman did. Our faith prohibits us from hanging around such evil people. Now the whole sport system is being destroyed and corrupt. I think they should be arrested and put to death.”
Fall and Abdoulaye’s radical views on homosexuality demonstrate the continent’s negative attitude towards gay and lesbians, who have nowhere to hide in their respective communities.
Homosexuality is still a criminal crime in at least 38 African countries, some of which have laws that sentence those found guilty of same-sex practices to up to 20 years.
Mocked and insulted by members of the public, harassed by cops day and night, and persecuted by their countries’ stringent laws, Africa’s gay and lesbians live in limbo, forcing some to go into hiding or exile.
One Senegalese talented lesbian player had to leave her native Dakar for Cape Town, South Africa, where she now feels comfortable.
“Yes, that’s where they belong, South Africa. That’s their paradise, not here in Senegal, or Mali, or Guinea, or anywhere in West Africa. We don’t need these sinners here,” one basket-ball supporter says.
US President Barack Obama’s visit to Africa in 2013 to persuade African governments to tolerate homosexuals and decriminalise the practice was met by a big ‘no’.
“I blame the West for forcing us to swallow such a bitter pill. We would love our female sport teams to do well on world stage, but the presence of these unclean people makes things difficult, and I think it’s getting worse in Senegal despite the denials,” one soccer administrator says.
*Names have been withheld to protect the sources’ identity.