Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cameroon's Homophobia

It's not safe to be gay or support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexual (LGBTI) rights in Cameroon, according to a new report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The report, presented Wednesday in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, shows that violence against the LGBTI community and its advocates has increased significantly over the last few years.

Cameroon is one of 38 African countries where homosexuality is still illegal. Violators of section 347 of the country's penal code, which bans "consensual sexual relations between persons of the same sex," face heavy fines and up to five years in jail. Gay men and women and LGBTI rights activists in Cameroon are at risk of having their homes broken into or burned, the report said. They are also subject to constant threats and intimidation via text message and social media. The FIDH report accuses Cameroon's Catholic and Muslim communities of fueling the anti-gay sentiment. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Yaoundé reportedly told FIDH researchers that, "homosexuality is a defect." Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot, the former Archbishop of Yaoundé, was vehemently anti-gay and blamed homosexuals "for the misery in Cameroon and the unemployment of our graduates." He also called same-sex marriage a "crime against humanity."
Cameroon's media have carried out their own anti-gay witch-hunt. In 2006, three newspapers published a list of "The top 50 gay public figures."

In August 2013, a government spokesman told journalists gathered at a press conference that the great majority of Cameroonians condemn homosexuality "because their religious beliefs are incompatible with homosexuality," and said, "the president's duty is to respect the will of the people and to enforce the current law." The government reiterated its stance in January 2014, declaring it would not repeal a law endorsed by the majority of the people.

Yves Yomb, who runs Alternatives-Cameroun, the country's oldest LGBTI rights group said "Every time we meet government officials to talk to them about violations of LGBT rights in Cameroon we're told there is no evidence."

Eric Ohena Lembembe, an outspoken journalist and gay rights activist who was tortured and killed in his home in July 2013, just weeks after he criticized government inaction over the threat posed by "anti-gay thugs." Lembembe's neck and feet were broken, and his face, hands, and feet were burned with an iron. The case, which shocked the international community, still hasn't been solved.

Alternatives-Cameroun, which was established in Douala in 2006, has weathered its own share of homophobic hatred. The group's headquarters were torched in 2013

No comments: