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Cameroon Men Arrested ‘Because They Appear to Be Gay’

Cameroon Men Arrested ‘Because They Appear to Be Gay’

At least ten men have been arrested and imprisoned for homosexuality in Cameroon so far this year. Not only for what they do, but for who they are, or even appear to be.

“We are receiving an increasing number of reports that individuals are being targeted not only because of their sexual behaviour, which is the subject of these discriminatory laws, but because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This use of criminal law to punish identities, as well as behaviours, is deeply concerning,” said Salil Shetty of Amnesty International in a statement issued on Sept. 26.

“We have received information that at least some of these men were subjected to torture or other ill-treatment while in custody,” said Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch in the same statement.

One of the men, Roger Jean Claude Mbede, a 29-year-old student who was sentenced to three years in jail for homosexuality and attempted homosexuality, had his appeal of that judgment on Monday, November 7.

Mdebe was convicted, even though there was no evidence of criminal conduct, according to Human Rights Watch.

“A prison term can be life-threatening for inmates, particularly those who are presumed to be homosexual,” said Dipika Nath of Human Rights Watch.

At the appeal, Mbede was represented by Alice Nkom, 66, a noted lawyer and LGBT rights activist who has been defending LGBT clients for more than 10 years despite threats of arrest and violence. In recognition of her activism, she was named the Grand Marshall of Montreal’s gay pride parade in August.

According to the Amnesty International website:

“Homophobia is endemic in Cameroonian society and even the National Human Rights Commission refuses to recognise and defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Arrests, prosecutions and trials of gay men occur on a regular basis.”

A police crackdown is not the only problem. There was a surge in anti-LGBT violence in early September.

“In the last two weeks violence against gay people in Cameroon has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels: the situation is quickly becoming a crisis,” said Alice Nkom, one of the few lawyers willing to defend LGBT clients, in a letter posted online on Sept. 15.

“I’ve heard countless recent stories of homophobic violence throughout the country,” she adds. “I’m 66, and in ten years of defending lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) people in Cameroon, it has never been this bad.”

There have been reports of at least two attempts to burn gay men in Cameroon this year, on January 28 and May 14.

In Cameroon, adult consensual gay and lesbian sex is punishable with a fine and up to five years in jail. A proposed reform would increase the prison term to 8 years when homosexual acts involve a person between the ages of 16 and 21 years, and to 15 years when it involves sex with minors under 16.

The change, said Nkom, would create confusion between homosexuality and pedophilia, “which will allow judges to condemn more people more easily.”

In mid-September, Nkom launched an international online petition against homophobia in Cameroon. On Oct 10, she said the online petition already had an impact; the government knows that the world is watching. So far, the petition has been signed by more than 61,000 people, but Nkom is seeking 100,000 supporters.

You can sign the Care2 petition ‘Stop LGBT Discrimination in Cameroon!‘ — which already has more than 20,000 signatures.

The West African state is a member of the Commonwealth, but the majority of its population speaks French. Its 19 million inhabitants are 70% Catholic, with significant Muslim and animist minorities.

Related stories:

Does the World Care About Gays in Cameroon?

Cameroon to Toughen Anti-Gay Laws

Cameroon Man Jailed for Being Gay – Take Action!

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Photo credit cmduke

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24 comments

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1:54AM PST on Nov 28, 2011

I think tight jeans, lumberjack shirts and moustaches is what they look for. Oh, and a macho "clone" appearance.

9:03PM PST on Nov 27, 2011

I don't think I even want to know how these geniuses propose to establish that someone 'appears gay'. I will have to make a mental note not to wear any pastel colors (or trip over any other stupid stereotypes) should I ever have a reason to visit Cameroon.

8:56PM PST on Nov 27, 2011

One wonders how exactly these dopey Cameroon, Uganda, and Nigeria legislators would want to intersexed persons treated. Someone whose body is quite literally neither male nor female should do what? Shrivel up and die?

Interesting, though, that the petitions do not acknowledge Intersexed persons because they force the signer to adopt a male- or female-gendered salutation.

10:49AM PST on Nov 13, 2011

My best wishes to gay men and men who "appear" to be gay in Cameroon. Being condemned and hunted for who you are, rather than for any act you have done, makes life rather difficult, as my pedophile friends in the USA and Britain know very well - including one who spent over 5 years in solitary confinement in Florida while he continues his 100+ year sentence for being a boy lover who broke no laws, and the late Neil Wilkes who set himself on fire in Great Britain last year because it was preferable to living there as a girl lover.

My heart goes out to gays and lesbians in Cameroon, but I would like to encourage them by reminding them that at least their nation's government and people are not so barbaric as those of the United States and Great Britain. Perhaps some hope remains for them.

12:35PM PST on Nov 10, 2011

Unbelievable. Please, everyone, sign both these petitions if you haven't already done so.

12:04PM PST on Nov 10, 2011

Sad Sad SAD!

12:17AM PST on Nov 10, 2011

Its so sad when you cant even feel safe or be who you truly are in your own country. Being gay or lesbian is not a sin! To suppress these people is!

4:57PM PST on Nov 9, 2011

William- the title of the article is actually THE POINT! It is silly and ridiculous-- homophobic crazy animals in Cameroon!

4:44PM PST on Nov 9, 2011

How silly!

2:09PM PST on Nov 9, 2011

Preemptive bigotry - nice. What's next? Looking at those sacred personhood eggs to make sure they aren't gay?

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