LGBTQI Rights in Cameroon: UAF-Africa Grantee Feature
Urgent Action Fund- Africa recently supported an organization working on LGBTQI rights in Cameroon pursue the release from prison of three LGBTQI activists who were seeking justice for a young girl raped because of her sexual orientation. The group also sought to carry out a massive demonstration campaign to end the violence against women and discrimination against lesbians and create a secret news bulletin that collects and publish stories of women (lesbians) victim of abuses as a means to create awareness. The use of mobile and online technology has become integral in the sustenance of the women’s rights and LGBTQI movement.
Cameroon is one of 38 African countries where homosexuality is illegal Violators of section 347 of the country’s penal code, which bans “consensual sexual relations between persons of the same sex,” face heavy fines and up to five years in jail. A report by the international human rights group Fédération Internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme (FIDH) shows that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community’s allies and defenders face grave dangers in the country and this is facilitated by the state’s inaction. Abuse and violations to LGBTQI persons is based on societal stereotypical impressions of homosexuality and thus many effeminate males, masculine-looking women and those whose physical and outward looks and dressing are outside of the societal norms have faced many challenges including accessing public health such as ARVs, and reproductive health and education. According to Human Rights Watch, Cameroon arrests and prosecutes more sexual minorities than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa.
On, May 2015, a 19 year old girl was raped by three men who claim that the girl led their sister into homosexuality. When these men were questioned by the police they responded with the same answer as they knew that they will be supported by the society and police itself since homosexuality is illegal and seen as abomination in Cameroon. The law and practices in Cameroon are discriminatory and impede LGBTQI person’s ability to freely exercise their basic rights. Institutional and personal hostility towards lesbian and gays today in Cameroon is so prevalent that it continues unabated. Homosexuality remains stigmatized through policies, attitudes and actions and anti-homosexuality actions such as abuse and attack on LGBTQI persons are condoned by legal systems. Those who defend homosexuality in Cameroon even face a greater danger because they are considered as those who encourage “abomination”. This was evidenced by the brutality with which 3 female activists were treated when they pursued justice for the 19 year old girl. The activists were arrested and detained on grounds that they were encouraging young girls to practice “abomination”. The activists argued that they were pursuing this case from a human rights perspective as no one should go through sexual violence irrespective of who they are or their sexual orientation. Nevertheless the police officers detained them indefinitely.
Urgent Action Fund- Africa supports the safety, dignity and autonomy of women and LBTQI persons with the firm conviction that violence against one woman is violence against all women.