Three women in Cameroon are being tried for the crime of homosexuality and face up to five years in prison, reports suggest.
The case, allegedly involving a lesbian love triangle, came to court on Monday, but has only been reported nationally now due to the remoteness of the area.
Roger Takala, a journalist based in Ambam, about 220km (135 miles) south of Yaounde, told the BBC that crowds packed into the court to hear the charges against the women.
He said the women were arrested in the town, on Cameroon’s border with Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, last week following a quarrel between two alleged lesbian lovers.
One partner accused the other of infidelity with a married woman.
The argument escalated and the husband of the married woman was told of the affair.
He reported the incident to the police.
This case would be unusual because, while men are frequently tried under the country’s anti-homosexuality laws, women are not usually prosecuted under provisions outlawing same-sex relationships.
Sources say the case has been adjourned until March 8. There are some reports offering that over the past few weeks as many as 10 women may have been arrested for same-sex relationships, though these reports remain unconfirmed.
In 2010 human rights group Human Rights Watch issued a report showing evidence that the criminal justice system in Cameroon is engaging in numerous fundamental rights violations. The report demonstrated that authorities have engaged in arbitrary detentions without proper adherence to due process, and that authorities continue to sentence people without proper evidence. In short, the report said, LGBs were not being prosecuted for actual crimes but were effectively being targeted for their identities.
Cameroon’s government said last year that it is in fact considering strengthening its anti-gay laws.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a number of other human rights groups have called on the Cameroonian government to release citizens detained or imprisoned for being gay, and to repeal laws that criminalize same-sex sexual relations.
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