Homosexuals are subject to attacks and abuse in Cameroon

From: News.Cameroon-Today.com
November 4, 2010

Report: Criminalizing Identities – Rights Abuses in Cameroon Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. From: Alternatives-Cameroun, L’Association pour la defense des Droits des Homosexuels; Human Rights Watch; and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Douala, Cameroon
Couples in Cameroon who practice homosexuality or indulge in same sex relationships or found to be having sex with another individual of the same sex are being verbally and physically assaulted by moral police from various sections of the society including the lawmakers, government representatives, bureaucrats , the press and even the society to which they belong.The facts were revealed by four organizations fighting for human rights in a report that they jointly announced today.

The report calls out to the government to take the required steps at the earliest possible instant to which will convert the criminal aspect of such consensual behavior and to guarantee that irrespective of what their sexual preferences and what their gender identity are like all residents of Cameroon have equal set of human rights that the constitution of the country warranties stated Alternatives-Cameroun, L’Association pour la Defense des Homosexuels, Human Rights Watch, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

The 62-page report, “Criminalizing Identities: Rights Abuses in Cameroon Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” explains in full detail how the government employs article 347 bis of the Penal Code to prevent individuals who are viewed to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) from even using their basic human rights.

The report mentions about prison sentences, physician assault by the lawmakers, mental torture in prison, and various other instances of traumatic experiences and an environment that permits discrimination and assault in the society. The result of the whole set of happenings is that individuals who flout the law and indulge in more harmful practices that can prove to be destructive to the society are not penalized while people who have same sex preferences are specifically targeted by the law and lawmakers for punishment, the groups said.

“The poor and the young, who often have no way to get legal assistance, suffer the most from Cameroon’s abusive atmosphere,” said Steave Nemande, president of Alternatives-Cameroun. “Even after they get out of jail, families and friends often reject them. They are denied education, jobs, even a place to live. Their lives are ruined.”

The findings of the report is based on 45 interviews with sufferers, recorded proof of assault by police which also includes marks indicating physical torture including beating on the victims’ bodies and even the soles of their feet. Prison guards overlook dirty comments and physical attacks which involved sexual overtures as well by co-prisoners, including thrashing, molestations, and passing urine and defecating on the victims’ belongings.

Those individuals jailed under article 347 bis are held for long spans of time without being presented in a court of law so that they can be jailed for more than the permissible limits of time stipulated by Cameroonian law the groups were able to find out. Judges were also found to be giving them longer sentences which gave them longer than usual prison tenures without proper proof to indicate that they had indulged in a homosexual act. Even when judges have pronounced them as free of charges, there have been numerous cases where the accused have been charged again before they could gain freedom.

Chauvinism and intolerance towards the gay and lesbian communities of Cameroon is all- encompassing. Women who do not come out to the world as feminine or graceful or ones who people feel are not totally lady like are treated with partiality and are often wrongly punished. Similar to men facing similar situations they are detested by their near and dear ones and very often are even physically assaulted by close members in their families which makes their lives in itself a major trauma since women here are expected to live within the family and are hardly educated or independent.

Women who are even doubted vaguely of having had illicit sexual relationships with other women are found to be specific targets for molestation and sexual overtures from both men and other women within the families and the communities in which they thrive. They are also at a high rick of losing their families and their kids what with even the kids being kept away from such mothers. They sadly are scared to approach the law and cannot file a suit for fear of partial treatment which could be followed by arrest and even painfully long jail tenures.

The press in Cameroon rather than working to improve the conditions and bring their true stories to the world adds to the suppressive attitude, the groups said. Magazines and leading dailies and have brought into the open many names of individuals who are suspected to indulge in homosexual practices and have even gone to the extent of coining a term “homocraty” to propagate apprehension and abhorrence against individuals who are part in same-sex relations, implicating the quite wrongly as power-thirsty, corrupt, affluent, and hell bent on exercising their control over the country and taking the administration in their hands.

“Lesbian, gays, and bisexuals in Cameroon are considered lower than dogs,” said Sebastien Mandeng of l’Association pour la defense des droits des homosexuels. “They face great injustice because of homophobia.”

The criminalization of same-sex indulgences are also creating serious health hazards as a by product of people being scared to come out into the open for fear of being subject to prejudice and contempt the groups said. Cameroon does not have HIV/AIDS programs which are specifically implemented toward LGBT people, in spite of all researches proving undoubtedly that this category is the one that is most prone to the attack of the virus.

The government does not keep account of the presence of the virus neither do they conduct any studies pertaining to the transmission of the virus and as less people indulging in heterosexual activities come open with their problems the more are the caches that innocent victims be targeted by the attack of the fatal virus HIV. And as one which can be touted as a real foolishness on part of the government, the government prevents the distribution of condoms in jails, although HIV occurrence in prisons not just here but everywhere in the world have found be the highest, male prisoners indulge in homosexual sex, and molestation is a common occurrence.

“People living in secrecy are vulnerable to blackmail and abuse,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LBGT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Arrests may be relatively rare, but the physical violence and mental cruelty against this population are devastating.”

Denouncement by organizations that work on a global level has not been sufficient to put a form end the maltreatment of people under article 347 bis. In December 2008, during the Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon’s human rights laws and practices, the UN Human Rights Council recommended decriminalizing homosexual activities. In July 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee called on the government to curb social intolerance and discrimination against LGBT people, and involving them in all public health programs, to “ensure universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support.” The government of Cameroon vehemently denied both recommendations.

Alternatives-Cameroun offered a petition with more than 1,500 signatures to the National Assembly in November 2009 recommending decriminalization of homosexual activities and relations. However, the National Assembly has not even bothered to bring the topic into official purview.

“The criminalization of same-sex conduct has consequences beyond the obvious unacceptable arrests,” said Monica Mbaru, African coordinator of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “It drives inequality within the justice system itself and promotes violence within people’s homes, families, and communities.

The government of Cameroon needs to accept responsibility to ensure all Cameroonians live free of discrimination, whatever their orientation or identity.”

Also see:
Gay Cameroon News & Reports
Pushing Cameroon to Decriminalize Homosexuality