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

Multimedia Baltimore 'Victory Rally' Follows Charges in Detainee Death

Saturday's rally is largest organized gathering since state's attonrey filed felony charges in police-custody death of Freddie Gray More

UN Denies Child Sex Abuse Cover Up in CAR

UNHCR says senior official suspected of leaking report suspended for breaching rules More

Nepal Officials Slammed Over Aid Response

VOA News has compiled from various organizations complaints from across Nepal of bottlenecks at customs, repeated harassing inspections of aid convoys and seizure of goods More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs