In Senegal, feminists helpless in the face of the case between Adji Sarr and Ousmane Sonko

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By John

“SALACEOUS. Aji Sarr unrolls a porn film”, is indignant in “one” The Observer, in its edition of Wednesday May 24; “Torrid revelations of Adji Sarr”, promises its readers The Daily ; “Erotic stories, it was hot! », is ecstatic Bes Bi. The Senegalese press competed with scabrous headlines the day after a crucial hearing in the most watched trial of the moment in the country. The main opponent Ousmane Sonko is accused of rape and death threats by Adji Sarr, a former employee of a massage parlour.

“To associate rape with pornography is to trivialize itprotests Aminata Libain Mbengue, a figure of radical feminism and clinical psychologist. Senegalese journalists who are not trained in issues of sexual violence often confuse rape with sexuality. »

During Tuesday’s hearing, the alleged victim described in great detail the scenes of rape she claims to have suffered between the end of December 2020 and the beginning of February 2021 at Sweet Beauty, the salon where she worked. His testimony sparked much mockery on social networks where supporters of Ousmane Sonko are particularly active. They see behind this court case a political plot to exclude their leader from the 2024 presidential race.

“By testifying without trembling, Adji Sarr embodies the bad victim in the eyes of the public. For many Senegalese, a good victim must seem destroyed. These erroneous representations comfort the aggressors”says Ndèye Khady Babou, doctor and co-coordinator of the network of feminists in Senegal.

The limits of feminist activism

Since the outbreak of this politico-judicial affair, the public debate has been saturated with sexist remarks. So much so that even the most radical activists claim to be “wrung out” in the face of the few echoes that their voices have. Communicating at the head of the Association for the support and protection of women victims of violation of their rights (Aprofev), Gabrielle Kane initially ensured the public defense of the young masseuse. She went so far as to welcome Adji Sarr to her home in March 2021, when the case sparked clashes between law enforcement and supporters of Ousmane Sonko in which fourteen people were killed.

At the time, Gabrielle Kane scoured the television sets, but often found herself isolated in the debates. On Tuesday, the activist followed the trial of her former protege far from the court. “This case has destroyed me. I am a collateral victim. I was attacked, threatened and called a whore in the pay of the regime. It changed my personal and professional life. Today I need to rebuild myself”, she says. She distanced herself from Adji Sarr.