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Cote d’Ivoire Jails Two Men Accused of Same-Sex Sexual Acts

Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016

ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire (AP) — A court in Cote d’Ivoire found two men guilty of public indecency after they were accused of engaging in same-sex sexual acts, local activists said 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 Franck Amani, 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 Nov. 3 by a court in Sassandra, a coastal town more than 250 kilometers (155 miles) west of Abidjan, the commercial capital. A copy was not available Wednesday.

Court officials have declined to answer questions about the case, saying the trial was public and all relevant information was described for those who attended.

Cote d’Ivoire does not criminalize 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, Amani said.

"We are revolted by what is happening and by the judgment that was given," said Amani, who spoke to the 31-year-old suspect by phone.

Despite its tolerant reputation compared to other West African countries, Cote d’Ivoire 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.

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