In 2012, Senegal held presidential elections, where the incumbent, Mr. Abdoulaye Wade, was voted out, and the current president, Mr. Macky Sall, was elected. International observers declared the election to be free and fair, and the peaceful transfer of power was heralded as a great democratic success story for the country and the region. The presidential term is seven years in Senegal, and the four years since Presidents Sall’s election have been marked by both democratic and un-democratic measures. Human rights defenders (HRDs) have experienced restrictions in their work.
Although the Senegalese constitution allows for freedom of assembly, the government must authorize a protest or public assembly before it takes place. In 2015, requests for protests were delayed in the authorization process, or outrightly denied. Most often, in cases where HRDs requested to hold peaceful protests, the authorities banned them from taking place. In addition, if HRDs tried to hold peaceful protests without government consent, excessive force was used against them or they were prosecuted by the authorities.
Senegalese law prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, citizenship, political opinion, gender, disability, language, HIV+ status, and social status. However, in 2015, discrimination was widespread and laws regarding discrimination were rarely, if ever, enforced. For women HRDs this creates a particularly hostile work environment as sexual harassment and violence against women are common. Furthermore, same-sex activity is illegal in Senegal thus rendering the environment for HRDs working on LGBT issues inhospitable.