News / Africa

Report: Police Abuse Suspected Gays in Cameroon

FILE - Esther, 29, and Martine, 26, from Yaounde, on trial in Cameroon accused of homosexuality, March 15, 2012FILE - Esther, 29, and Martine, 26, from Yaounde, on trial in Cameroon accused of homosexuality, March 15, 2012
x
FILE - Esther, 29, and Martine, 26, from Yaounde, on trial in Cameroon accused of homosexuality, March 15, 2012
FILE - Esther, 29, and Martine, 26, from Yaounde, on trial in Cameroon accused of homosexuality, March 15, 2012
TEXT SIZE - +
A new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) says officials in Cameroon have resorted to torture and other forms of abuse while pursuing cases under the country’s notorious anti-gay law.  The rights watchdog says Cameroon prosecutes homosexuality “more aggressively than almost any country in the world," even though police say there has been only one arrest for homosexuality in the past six months and the country's president says he may be rethinking enforcement of the laws.

Cameroon’s anti-gay law dates back to 1972, but regular prosecutions did not begin until 2005.  Human Rights Watch says charges have been brought against at least 28 people in the last three years alone although arrest activity appears to have dropped off in the past few months.
 
The law bans sexual activity between people of the same sex, with punishments of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $400.

While Human Rights Watch and other groups have called for an outright repeal of the law, the new report also claims that, in the past, it was being improperly enforced.  Researcher Neela Ghoshal said the evidence against suspects is very weak, with cases often resting on rumor, denunciations, or even a person's appearance.
 
"It’s very difficult for the authorities to find proof that homosexuality has taken place," she said. "In none of the cases that we documented was anyone actually caught having sex with someone of the same sex."

Many of the suspects interviewed for the report said they had been abused or even tortured during interrogations so that they would confess.  One man was tied to a chair and beaten so badly that he couldn’t walk for weeks.
 
Others said they were mocked openly by judges in court and faced physical and sexual abuse in prison.  Several said they had been subjected to humiliating anal examinations, which Cameroonian officials claim can determine whether someone has engaged in anal sex.  HRW and medical experts say such tests are of no scientific value.
 
Ghoshal said that it was difficult for suspects charged with homosexuality to get legal representation.  The few lawyers who have readily taken on homosexuality cases have had threats issued against them and their children.
 
"Another problem is that it takes a lot of courage for a lawyer to defend these cases... It’s unlikely that in rural parts of Cameroon you're going to find lawyers who are willing to take this risk," Ghoshal said.
 
The report says that the law has implications for gay men and lesbians in Cameroon even outside the courtroom.  For example, it says they are vulnerable to extortion by security forces and ordinary citizens.
 
Cameroonian officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday but Ghoshal said that in meetings this week with security forces, she learned that the police had not arrested anyone for homosexuality in the past six months, and that only one such arrest by the gendarmes had been documented.
 
“There has been a concrete and conscious effort to decrease the type of arbitrary arrests that we’ve been seeing, and that is really something positive to acknowledge," she said. "However, that said, even having the law on the books is something that is dangerous and creates obstacles to people’s freedoms.”

According to HRW, Cameroon's President Paul Biya has previously told diplomats that he would seek to impose a moratorium on arrests for homosexuality.  In January, he said it was possible that there could be a “change of mind” about homosexuality in Cameroon.  But no concrete action has been taken.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid