Rights in Exile Programme

Refugee Legal Aid Information for Lawyers Representing Refugees Globally

Mauritania LGBTI Resources

(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists) 

In Mauritania, homosexuality is illegal for both men and women. Before Mauritania’s independence in 1960, homosexuality was only punishable by 3 years in prison. In 1980 Mauritania gained independence and the penal code was amended in 1983 to include Sharia law, which makes homosexuality a crime against the Koran’s divine will and punishable by death (Mauritania: Information on the Treatment of Male Homosexuals).  According to the Mauritanian Penal Code (unofficial translations):

Article 308:

‘Any adult Muslim who has committed an indecent act or an act against nature with an individual of the same sex will be punished to death by public stoning. If the act is between two women, they will be punished by the punishment established in paragraph one of Article 306.’ 

Article 306:

‘Any person who has committed an outrage against public decency and Islamic morals or has desecrated sacred places or has helped to desecrate them… will be punished by a correctional punishment of three months to two years and a fine of 5,000 to 60,000 UM.’


Students at Columbia University’s Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic successfully helped a gay man from Mauritania to gain asylum in the US after proving that his sexual orientation prevented him from returning to Mauritania where homosexuality is punishable by death.

A Mauritanian man sought asylum in Belgium after having been witnessed kissing his partner in his shop in the north of Mauritania. The shopkeeper who saw the kiss reported him to the police and he was arrested and held in prison from June 2, 2008 until July 15, 2008. As is standard under Sharia law he was given three days to renounce his homosexuality, but instead chose to leave the country and seek asylum in Belgium. However he was not granted refugee status by Belgium because he was unable to prove the threat was so great that he could not return to Mauritania (Belgium: Conseil des Contentieux des Etrangers).


The country’s attitude towards homosexuality is negative and the subject is considered a taboo topic. Homosexuality is not acknowledged as existing and as such is not accepted by society. LGB people face discrimination and harassment and therefore must keep their sexual orientation a secret (Mauritania: Information on the Treatment of Male Homosexuals).

According to 2010 Human Rights Report: Mauritania, homosexuality can be punishable to death under Sharia law if witnessed by four individuals. However, there was no evidence of any violence or any systematic governmental discrimination, nor were there any criminal prosecutions against the LGBTI community during the year. Although there are no NGOs that focus specifically on issues faced by the LGBTI community, there were reportedly no legal impediments to the operation of such organizations. 


No NGOs were found that focus specifically on the needs of the LGBTI community in Mauritania. 


We have no specialist on LGBTI for Mauritania, but would welcome suggestions.


Researched by: Rhiannon Archer

Email: rhi [dot] archer [at] gmail [dot] com (rhi.archer[at]gmail.com)