Obama’s remarks came in his first stop on a planned weeklong African tour, in a country that outlaws homosexuality. He said while he respects differing religious views on the matter, he wants to send a message to Africans as well about the importance of nondiscrimination under the law.

“People should be treated equally and that’s a principal that I think applies universally,” he said.

Obama spoke at a news conference after a private meeting with Senegalese President Macky Sall in which Obama said gay rights did not come up. Sall responded that Senegal leads “a very tolerant country” and anti-gay laws are not being prosecuted, “but we are still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality.”

“We are still not ready,” Sall said, adding that “does not mean we are homophobic.”