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
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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid