Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape but does not address the gender of survivors. The law also does not address spousal rape. Offenders faced 10 to 20 years in prison, with possible life sentences in aggravated situations. Experts noted the need for the government to train more gynecologists, midwives, nurses, general practitioners, and psychologists to assist survivors and raise awareness of the law among key actors in society, including police, judges, religious leaders, and media.
The government did not fully enforce existing laws, particularly when violence occurred within families. Although domestic violence that causes lasting injuries is punishable with a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years, and life imprisonment for murder, police usually did not intervene in domestic disputes. The NGO Partners West Africa Senegal, citing the Association of Jurists of Senegal, claimed the rates of gender-based violence continued to increase and only 40 percent of victims reported such crimes. Many citizens considered domestic violence a normal part of life. NGOs noted the failure of some judges to apply domestic violence laws, citing cases in which judges claimed lack of adequate evidence as a reason to issue lenient sentences. NGOs also noted the government’s failure to permit them to bring suits on behalf of survivors of domestic violence and the lack of shield laws for rape survivors.
The Ministry of Justice is responsible for combating domestic violence, but it did not undertake any programs to address rape or domestic violence. The government-run Ginddi Center in Dakar provided shelter to women and girls who were survivors of rape or child, early, and forced marriage as well as to street children.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law provides criminal penalties for the perpetration of FGM/C on women and girls, but authorities prosecuted no cases. The government, with the support of UNICEF, launched a public awareness campaign in November 2021 to accelerate efforts to eliminate FGM/C. Also in November 2021, UNICEF estimated one in four girls and women between ages 15 to 49 had suffered from FGM/C, with the prevalence as high as 65 to 90 percent in some regions, and with large variation across regions and ethnic groups.
Sexual Harassment: The law mandates prison terms of five months to three years and modest to substantial fines for sexual harassment, but the problem remained widespread. The government did not effectively enforce the law.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
The prevalence of FGM/C heightened women’s risk to increased obstetrical complications during labor and childbirth (see the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information).
Emergency contraception was available as a part of family planning method mix.
Barriers to emergency health care, including complications from abortion, included long distances from health-care facilities, a lack of equipment, a lack of trained staff, and language barriers between health-care workers and patients. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Service quality improved with the adoption of standards, training, and technical platforms. Emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape cases.
According to 2017 data from the Ministry of Health and Social Action, the maternal mortality ratio was 236 deaths per 100,000 live births. The ministry estimated most maternal deaths in childbirth were preventable, caused by the lack of medical equipment and qualified providers, particularly in rural areas.
Barriers impacting menstruation and menstruation hygiene included a lack of education for women and girls and a cultural reluctance to discuss reproductive health. Menstruation and barriers to menstrual hygiene sometimes negatively impacted education and employment opportunities.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men in many areas, although there are legal restrictions on women in employment, including limitations on occupations and tasks. Nevertheless, women faced pervasive discrimination, especially in rural areas where traditional customs and discriminatory rules of inheritance were strongest.
The law’s definition of paternal rights also remained an obstacle to equality between men and women. The law considers men to be heads of household, preventing women from being granted legal responsibility for their children. Additionally, any benefits for having children are paid to the father. Women may become the legal head of household only if the husband formally renounces his authority or if he is unable to act as head of household.
While women legally have equal access to land, traditional practices made it difficult for women to purchase property in rural areas. Many women had access to land only through their husbands, and the security of their rights depended on maintaining their relationships with their husbands. Discriminatory laws and policies also limited women’s access to and control of capital.
The Ministry for Women’s Affairs, Family Affairs, and Gender has a directorate for gender equality that implemented programs to combat discrimination.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law forbids acts of racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination. Authorities enforced the law effectively. Ethnic groups generally coexisted peacefully, but discrimination occurred among many ethnic groups, particularly against individuals of lower castes, and intellectuals or businesspersons from lower castes often tried to conceal their caste identity. Such discrimination was rarely discussed openly.
Government programs to mitigate societal, racial, or ethnic biases included policies favoring the hiring of women, persons with disabilities, and youth.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth on national territory or naturalization. The law provides for equal rights for mothers and fathers to transmit citizenship to their children. The law does not make birth declaration mandatory. Registering births required payment of a small fee and travel to a registration center, a difficult process for many residents of rural areas.
Education: The law provides for tuition-free and compulsory education for children between ages six and 16, although approximately one-third of these children did not attend school. Some did not attend for religious reasons. While children generally could attend primary school without a birth certificate, they needed one to take national exams. Students often had to pay for their own books, uniforms, and other school supplies.
Girls encountered greater difficulties than boys in continuing school beyond the elementary level. A lack of running water, poor sanitation, early pregnancy, long travel distances, and sexual harassment by school staff contributed to girls leaving school. Where school directors were aware of sexual harassment or exploitation by teaching staff, they generally tried to resolve the situation on their own without reporting it to higher authorities or police and often stigmatized and faulted the behavior of the girls rather than the teachers. Clear mechanisms for reporting harassment remained inconsistent at the school level. Many girls who became pregnant dropped out of school and had limited opportunities for re-enrolling.
Many parents opted to keep their middle-school- and high-school-age daughters home to work or to marry rather than sending them to school. In recent years, however, gender disparity at the middle- and high-school level lessened.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained common, particularly of boys sent to Dakar and other cities to beg under threat of punishment. Parents sent many of these boys to study in daaras (Quranic religious schools). At some daaras, Quranic instructors exploited, physically abused, and forced children to beg on the street. According to Human Rights Watch in 2019, more than 100,000 students lived in daaras across the country.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: By law women have the right to choose when and whom they marry, but traditional practices often restricted a woman’s choice. The law prohibits the marriage of girls younger than 16, but authorities generally did not enforce the law in communities where marriages were arranged. Under certain conditions a judge may grant a special dispensation to a man to marry a girl below the age of consent.
According to women’s rights groups and officials from the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, Family Affairs, and Gender, child, early, and forced marriage was a significant problem, particularly in the more rural areas in the south, east, and northeast. The ministry conducted educational campaigns to address the problem.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation, sale, and offering or using of children for commercial sex and practices related to pornography. The law does not specifically address grooming. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law, but they conducted follow-up investigations when they received referral cases. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18.
Exploitation of women and girls in sex trafficking continued to be a problem, particularly in the southeast gold-mining region of Kedougou.
Infanticide, Including Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide continued to be a problem, usually due to economic hardship or religious shame from having children outside of marriage. If police discovered the identity of the mother, she faced arrest and prosecution for infanticide.
Displaced Children: Many children displaced by the Casamance conflict lived with extended family members, neighbors, in children’s homes, or on the streets. According to NGOs in the Casamance, displaced children suffered from the psychological effects of conflict, malnutrition, and poor health.
There were approximately 100 Jewish residents in the country. There were no reports of antisemitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: Consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, referred to in law as an “unnatural act,” is a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison. The government enforced these laws through arrests of LGBTQI+ persons but did not impose fines or custodial sentences.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: Some local observers believed police condoned or promoted violence against the LGBTQI+ community. LGBTQI+ persons faced widespread social intolerance and acts of violence. LGBTQI+ individuals were subject to frequent threats, mob attacks, robberies, expulsions, blackmail, and rape. Political figures sometimes condoned or tolerated these abuses.
On May 17, a mob in a crowded market assaulted a man perceived to be gay, while onlookers shouted homophobic slurs. A video released publicly potentially revealed the person’s identity.
Observers reported an increase in threats of physical violence against persons perceived to be LGBTQI+ or their community allies ahead of the July 31 legislative elections, forcing LGBTQI+ community members to flee or hide for their safety. Anti-LGBTQI+ discourse during the campaign from political parties and others created a threatening atmosphere for LGBTQI+ persons.
Discrimination: No laws prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, nor are there hate crime laws that could be used to prosecute crimes motivated by bias against LGBTQI+ persons. LGBTQI+ persons faced widespread discrimination, and LGBTQI+ activists complained of discrimination in access to social services, including in education and health services. The government and cultural attitudes remained heavily biased against LGBTQI+ persons.
On May 14, Senegalese soccer player Idrissa Gueye, a member of the Paris Saint Germain professional soccer team, refused to wear a rainbow jersey and play in a Paris match dedicated to raising awareness of LGBTQI+ discrimination, a move that received widespread acclaim across Senegal. Both President Sall and opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on Twitter praised Gueye’s decision not to participate in the match.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition:There is no official process by which the government allows individuals to change their gender identity markers on legal and identifying documents to align them with their gender identity.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: Observers did not report specific cases of so-called conversion therapy through a formal institution or practice. Nonetheless, widespread social, cultural, and religious intolerance led to continual attempts to “convert” LGBTQI+ individuals informally through family, religious, medical, educational, or other community pressures.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: The government restricted LGBTQI+ organizations from legally registering or convening meetings. The government closely scrutinized NGO registrations for linkages to the LGBTQI+ community, including rejecting applications with a strong focus on gender-related topics.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities could access education, health services, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Older public buildings lacked accessible facilities.
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not enforce these provisions adequately. The law also mandates accessibility for persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce the law.
Due to a lack of special education training for teachers and facilities accessible to children with disabilities, authorities enrolled only 40 percent of children with disabilities in primary school. Support for persons with mental disabilities was not generally available, and incidents of physical abuse of persons with mental disabilities occurred. Authorities did not investigate these abuses.
Persons with disabilities generally experienced difficulty registering to vote as well as accessing voting sites due to physical barriers such as stairs, as well as the lack of provisions such as Braille ballots or sign language interpreters for persons with vision and hearing disabilities, or persons who are nonverbal. The law reserves 15 percent of new civil service positions for persons with disabilities, but this quota has never been enforced. In regions outside Dakar, persons with disabilities were effectively excluded from access to these positions.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
The law prohibits violence and discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, as well as dissemination of HIV status, although the law was not well known or enforced. The government and NGOs conducted HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns to increase social acceptance of persons with HIV or AIDS and increase HIV testing and counseling nationwide. Nevertheless, human rights activists reported HIV-positive individuals and those with AIDS-related illnesses suffered from social stigma. HIV-positive men sometimes refrained from taking antiretroviral drugs due to the risk their families would discover their sexual orientation.