News / Africa

UN Blasts Cameroon’s Anti-gay Laws

Esther, 29, and Martine, 26 stand by a courthouse in Ambam, Cameroon where they were accused of homosexuality, March 15. 2012.Esther, 29, and Martine, 26 stand by a courthouse in Ambam, Cameroon where they were accused of homosexuality, March 15. 2012.
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Esther, 29, and Martine, 26 stand by a courthouse in Ambam, Cameroon where they were accused of homosexuality, March 15. 2012.
Esther, 29, and Martine, 26 stand by a courthouse in Ambam, Cameroon where they were accused of homosexuality, March 15. 2012.
Lisa Schlein
The United Nations Human Rights office is sharply criticizing Cameroon's anti-gay laws, which it says criminalize same-sex relationships.  The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says it is deeply concerned by reports in Cameroon of harassment, intimidation, arrest and imprisonment of people on suspicion of being lesbian or gay.

The U.N. human rights office says Cameroon's penal code, which criminalizes sexual relations with a person of the same sex, breaches the country's international human rights commitments.  It says this law, which calls for up to five years imprisonment and a fine for any person found in a same-sex relationship, also violates international human rights law.

Like many nations in Africa, Cameroon is a conservative society, where homosexuality is frowned upon.  
 
U.N. Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville says the U.N. is seriously concerned that the anti-gay law is being applied to prosecute people simply on their appearance, their mannerisms, style of speech or general conduct.  
 
"In 2011, for example, Roger Jean-Claude Mbede was convicted of suspected homosexual conduct after the authorities discovered he has sent a text message to another man that read 'I am very much in love with you,'" recalled Colville.  "Last month, Jonas Singa Kumi and Franky Djome were convicted on the basis of evidence of their appearance, which as perceived as effeminate, and the fact that they had been seen drinking Bailey's Irish Cream."    
 
Colville says all three cases will have appeal hearings next week.  He acknowledges the U.N. human rights office hopes that by speaking out it will pressure the Cameroonian court to overturn what he calls these unjust sentences.
 
Colville adds that the U.N. office is also receiving "very worrisome" reports of anonymous threats being received by human rights defenders working to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  He notes one prominent Cameroonian lawyer has received multiple death threats to her life and the well-being of her family.  

Colville says civil society organizations that have spoken out on behalf of LGBT people also have been threatened and intimidated.  According to Colville, the human rights office hopes to eventually, affect changes in Cameroon's laws.

"So, obviously laws that target people because of their sexual orientation are discriminatory by any nature," Colville noted.  "So, that is why we strongly oppose them and we obviously try and convince governments that have such laws to change them.  And, of course, many governments have changed them.  Many governments have had these kinds of laws and have changed them over the years.  So, we hope Cameroon will do as well."
 
There was no immediate comment from Cameroon's government to the comments from the human rights office.  The country is one of 38 African nations have laws penalizing same-sex relations.

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by: Tania from: London
December 12, 2012 11:56 PM
It's funny how people say that it's not their culture, not their religion, etc. Spanish blamed people from Middle East for bringing homosexuality, Africa up to now have tribes which exercise a right for female to be with another female if her husband dies. People bring religious topic not reading Bible or Quran (before you ask I read both), but when read still don't understand what it says. Sodom and Gomorra is the "best" example, which shows how people know nothing about what it means and I am happy to discuss it but please first read. What is immoral is a hate, and tell me if I am wrong but I always believed that God is love and yet, I hear from some preachers that God hates gays. To Nero we can discuss the Human rights violation in the countries you mentioned, it seems like you forgot one of the worst Rwanda, Cambodia and Somalia. But to me it's your question which is very low. There about 5-10% of homosexuals in the world, which even 5% come to about 350 mln of the world population, it's more than population of Syria, Mali, Democratic Republic of Conco or Afghanistan but yet for you it's not enough. I have met, worked and made friends with Africans from Nigeria to South Africa, some of them had your set of mind, but majority had different. When people speak about apartheid they remember those who suffered, those who died, those who was silenced, well, to me homophobia, criminalisation because 2 people love each other it is the same apartheid.

by: nero from: shanghai
November 18, 2012 5:46 AM
This issue does not even deserve space for discussion when the world is reeling under serious human rights challenges in DRC, Syria, Mali, Afghanistan, etc. How could the UN stoop so low to recognise homosexuality as a human right? Please leave Africa alone. We have a culture to protect for the sake of future generations.
In Response

by: emma n j nwosu from: Nigeria
November 19, 2012 8:40 AM
It is not even the matter of stooping low. the issue is that the Western world have been deceiving the rest of the world that they have the right definition of life. They think we should receive guidance for living from them And as long as they are concerned when we don't agree with them we are not doing right.
He are people who say "NO!" to polygamy endorsing an abomination. Here are people who are forcing democracy down our throat telling us that even if the whole African continent don't believe in same-sex marriage that we should bow to it because a few people are so depraved to involve in it.
It is part of God's end-time agenda to set Africa free. I see it coming.
My prayer is that African and Asian countries will use this opportunity to break away from their strangle hold. Most economies in Europe are dyeing yet our leaders allow them to push us around. We in Africa refused to be as vile as you are. The gospel you brought us you have abandoned. We reject you and you NEW-WORLD message
In Response

by: Trev Adams from: Western Australia
November 18, 2012 8:55 AM
Excellent comment Nero. I commend you for your stand on this deeply troubling issue of the UN stating that homosexuality is ok. It is NOT ok in any form and I ask Almighty God to strengthen you as you speak out.

by: Al from: Washington, DC
November 17, 2012 9:05 PM
No, Mr. UN! Did you say that criminalizing same sex marriage is in "breach of Cameroon Internationl commitment to human right?" Well, the reverse is the case here. It is the UN that has violated the rights and wishes of all almost 100% of the Cameroonian population to criminalize same sex marriage. We Africans will never allow outsiders to tell us how to live our lives. Gone are those days. If the UN has not gotten the message, the message is Africa stands united to criminalze same sex marriage. It is an abomination and an act of immorality.

by: Anonymous
November 17, 2012 5:02 PM
Do not expect any commnet from the Cameroon government because that is immoral and we know it.

by: Paul
November 17, 2012 5:01 PM
We Cameroonians will not and will never accept that immorable act/poison that the West is bringing to us. We must recognise cultures and stop pushing us to the wall. Gay marriage is not a human right and even if it is, it is not a civil right

Why is the UN not deeply concern about Atrocities in Gaza???+
In Response

by: Al
November 17, 2012 10:26 PM
You are correct! gay marriage is not a human right, it is a deviation from normal human practice. Our cultures in African do not permit gay marriage.

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