News / Africa

Report Condemns Cameroon's Intolerance of Homosexuality

Local people standing in front of the tribunal in Ambam, during the trial of Esther, 29, and Martine, 26, accused of homosexuality, March 15, 2012.
Local people standing in front of the tribunal in Ambam, during the trial of Esther, 29, and Martine, 26, accused of homosexuality, March 15, 2012.
A new report from Amnesty International is accusing Cameroon’s government of fostering a climate of abuse and intolerance for the country's gay and lesbian citizens. In addition to arrest and prosecution, the report says Cameroonians accused of violating the country’s law prohibiting gay sex acts are routinely subjected to beatings and even torture. 

Improper use of Article 347

In 2011, 14 Cameroonians were brought to trial for violating a provision in the penal code outlawing homosexuality. Twelve of them were convicted.

But while Article 347 outlaws “sexual relations,” many suspects were arrested for what authorities deemed to be other types of gay behavior. One man sent a text message to another man saying, “I’m very much in love with you.” Two more were arrested partly because they were drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Godfrey Byaruhanga, who researched the report for Amnesty International, says that while his advocacy group opposes the law altogether, such arrests were evidence that it was being applied incorrectly.  

“The law as it exists is not being properly and fairly applied. The Cameroonian law would require that they are found having same-sex sexual relations," explained Byaruhanga. "But in this case we know that most of the people who have been arrested, imprisoned or convicted of homosexuality have not been found engaging in same-sex sexual relations.”

Inhuman conditions in prison

Malnutrition is rampant in Cameroon’s prisons, where inmates receive just one meal a day. Guards also administer regular beatings. In addition, judicial officials have ordered that suspected gay men be subjected to forced anal examinations, which Amnesty says constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Byaruhanga says authorities have failed to investigate harassment and physical violence against gay men and lesbians. He notes also they have not responded to reports of anonymous threats made against human rights defenders and their families - including lawyers defending suspects tried under Article 347.

Responding to Amnesty’s allegations, Cameroonian officials defended Article 347 and its application, saying it reflects the views of a deeply religious society. Officials at the national human rights commission have argued that gay men and lesbians could and should change their sexual preference in order to comply with the law.

A foreign imposition?

Byaruhanga says there is a widespread belief among many Cameroonian officials and ordinary citizens that homosexuality is being imposed on the country by foreign forces.

"I think what was quite concerning was the argument by the authorities that homosexuality is a foreign imposition, that it is an activity or a behavior or a culture that is foreign to the Cameroonian culture, and as such is being imposed by foreigners on Cameroonians," he said. "That is an argument that we simply do not accept and that indeed the gay men and lesbian women in Cameroon do not accept. It is not being imposed from outside the country. This is the sexuality of the people of Cameroon by Cameroonians amongst Cameroonians.”

The U.S. State Department has previously spoken out about Cameroon’s anti-gay law as well as individual prosecutions of Cameroonians charged under the law.

Aaron Jensen, a spokesman for the department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, says the U.S. “opposes any legislation that criminalizes consensual same sex conduct or singles out people for their sexual orientation.”

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid