Analysis of representation of homosexuals in print media in Senegal

Published: July 21, 2010

Analysis of representation of homosexuals in print media in Senegal

P. Bend1, K. Elfving2, C. Ibrahima Niang2, N. Thiam2

1Panos Global AIDS Programme, Port au Prince, Haiti, 2Panos Institute West Africa, Dakar, Senegal

Issues: During recent years, the attitudes towards homosexuals in Senegal have become distinctly harsher. Homosexuals are subjected to violence and discrimination.

Description: Panos Institute West Africa conducted a study between March to August 2009 to assess the representation of homosexuals in the print media in Senegal. Data was collected through a desk study review, an analysis of newspapers, and interviews with media practitioners, lawyers and health agents.

Lessons learned: The study shows that the print media plays an important role in increasing homophobia in Senegal. The description of homosexuals in print media is characterized by negative connotations, and not supported by scientific facts or Senegalese history. Inequalities exist even in expressing opinions. While political and religious organizations’ can speak publically without being pursued, organizations of homosexuals need to take significant risks if they have to defend their positions. In the rare cases where homosexuals speak, their statements are accompanied by discriminating descriptions in order for the person interviewed to fit the image of perverse, abnormal or even dangerous individuals. Consequently there is a strong need for homosexuals, to have access to speak in media, and for media to have a broader understanding of the issue to produce accurate, sensitive, non-discriminatory information, portraying homosexuals as ordinary human beings.

Next steps:

    * Increase sensitive reporting in the media on homosexuals by training the national and local language media on: a)deontological and ethical rules; b)the recognition of human rights including right to access HIV services, and c)the reinterpretation of concepts of tolerance and civil peace in the main religious discourses.
    * Facilitating interactions with sensitive journalists and MSM willing to discuss their concerns.
    * Stimulate public and policy debate on the study through dissemination of scientific findings and first person accounts of homosexuals.
    * Plan an advocacy strategy in a roundtable with key stakeholders

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