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Senegalese Women Facing Prison Time Under Nation's Anti-Gay Law

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Alhaji, 21, whose last name has been withheld for his safety, poses for a picture at La Pointe des Almadies, the westernmost point of Africa, in Dakar, Senegal, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Alhaji fled his home in neighboring Gambia last year after being beaten, tried, and persecuted for being gay. More than a year later, the Senegalese government has made no progress on his application for refugee status, leaving him and a dozen other gay Gambian men stranded in a country where homosexuality is al | ASSOCIATED PRESS

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A prosecutor in Senegal says five women have been charged under the country's anti-gay law that imposes prison sentences of up to five years for homosexual acts.

Mamadou Thiam confirmed the charges late Wednesday, two days after the women were arrested during a birthday party at a restaurant in Dakar's Yoff district.

Senegalese President Macky Sall has said the country is "not ready" to decriminalize homosexual acts. The women's rights group Women's Smile says the latest arrests highlight a hostile environment for lesbians, who it says are being targeted more frequently by police.

The suspects include an assistant director of Women's Smile, the only group in Senegal to advocate for lesbians' rights.

Ndeye Kebe, the group's president, said Thursday the women had not yet found a lawyer.

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