The AFP reports that Cameroon’s government is preparing to toughen the country’s already stringent laws against homosexuality by blurring them with pedophilia laws, granting judges new avenues for prosecution.
“The government is preparing a reform to the criminal code. In its draft law, it has both maintained and worsened punishment for homosexuality,” Alice Nkom, lawyer and president of the Cameroonian Association for the Defence of Homosexuality, said.
“It has widened its jurisdiction and created confusion between homosexuality and paedophilia, which will allow judges to condemn more people more easily,” she said.
In the draft law, homosexual acts in general remain punishable by between six months to five years imprisonment, activist Stephane Koche said.
The government reportedly wishes to introduce a couple of new by-laws to specifically punish same-sex pedophilia, making homosexual acts with persons under the age of 16 punishable by 10-15 years in prison. The more troubling is the second by-law that would call for a prison term of eight years for engaging in homosexual sex with persons between the ages of 16-21.
The second stipulation has especially worried LGBT rights activists. They say it aims at further criminalization of homosexuals in the country and sets a precedent that homosexuality between consenting adults – the legal age of consent being 16 for heterosexual couples — should be treated differently, advancing anti-sodomy laws and enshrining a comparison with pedophilia.
Recent months have seen officials in Cameroon ramp up efforts to stamp out homosexuality and gender non-conformity in the country.
A 19-year-old known as Jonas and a 20-year-old known as Francky were arrested on 25 July in a car outside a night club in Yaunda in the Cameroonian capital and charged under Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code which criminalizes same-sex sexual acts. New reports suggest a lawyer for the two men will argue they were not having oral sex in the car as had been claimed by police, but instead were arrested for being dressed in “feminine” attire. Their lawyer says that while they initially pleaded guilty, they did so under duress and will state their innocence at their forthcoming trial.