By G9ija

A bill introduced in Senegal’s parliament to toughen criminal penalties for homosexuals fell at the first hurdle on Wednesday, failing to progress to the assembly’s main floor.

Under existing law in the West African country, homosexuality is already punishable by up to five years in jail.

Eleven MPs initiated the draft law including at least one belonging to the ruling party, asserting that they had the support of highly influential religious groups.

Homosexuality is widely considered deviant in Senegal, which is 95 percent Muslim.

In a statement, the Office of the National Assembly — which assesses the merits of incoming bills — said the current penal code already punishes homosexuality “severely”.

It also noted that the authorities including President Macky Sall oppose the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Under existing law, homosexual acts may be punishable by between a year and five years in prison along with fines ranging from 152 to 2,286 euros ($170 to $2,580).

The bill that was thrown out on Wednesday would have increased possible jail time to between five and 10 years and treble the maximum fine.

The text said the proposed law should also target “lesbianism, bisexuality, transsexuality, intersexuality, bestiality, necrophilia and similar practices”.

Mamadou Lamine Diallo, the lawmaker who spearheaded the bill, said it was inspired by the umbrella group And Samm Jikko, whose name means “together for the safeguard of values” in Senegal’s main Wolof language.