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Government continues clampdown on Cameroon’s sexual minority

Brice Evina, President of the Cameroon Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAID), says he wishes he never stated in a 2015 report…

Brice Evina, President of the Cameroon Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAID), says he wishes he never stated in a 2015 report of his organisation that there was an improvement in the situation of Cameroon’s LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) community.

CAMFAID is one of the over 20 organisations that defend the rights of sexual minorities in Cameroon. Evina, told our reporter in an interview at the headquarters of the rights organisation in Yaounde that there has been a recent surge in arrests and attacks targeting sexual and gender minorities.

“Let me call some of our volunteers who are victims, let them give you their testimonies,” he says, noting that a few victims that they extract from jail cells, often decide to offer voluntary services to the organisation. “It is appears this is the only place they feel safe. Free from stigmatisation, discrimination and scorn. Even the recent modification of the penal code makes things worse. One can go to jail simply for holding another person of the same sex in a so-called suggestive way;” he says.

Serge, one of the volunteers at CAMFAID recounted to us how he was attacked at his home in October 2015. He says he neighbours overwhelmed his attackers, and held them till security forces came. “When we got to the station, the attacker said I was gay. He also claimed that I was sleeping with his younger brother. As soon as the gendarmes heard I was gay, and worked with CAMFAID, my oppressor suddenly became the victim.” He said.Evina says it was the timely intervention of CAMFAID that stopped Serge from being prosecuted.

“Things always get too complicated when a case involving LGBTI+ people get to court. So we always try to intervene when they are still in at the police station- before any judicial proceedings start.” Evina said. The CAMFAID president regretted that his organisation does not have the means to defend the rights of sexual minorities in all the regions of Cameroon. “Our work ends in Yaounde and Douala, but people are being harassed and prosecuted in other regions but we are unable to support them. People erroneously think we have funding from the West.”

The North West region is one of the areas where the LGBTI+ people live in constant fear. Several cases have been reported of police extortion and torture of gays and lesbians in the regions.

A recent case in point is that of a certain Kelly Nange. She is said to have been forced to name other young girls in a purported network of lesbians in Bamenda which she allegedly belonged to. We learned she told police she was dragged into lesbianism by a certain Nadia, Nadia who had been in ore she knew no one else.

Nadia was picked up by the police last week. She told the police during grilling that she has been a lesbian all her life, but could not lead security officers to the homes of any of her partners. Besides Kelly Nange, she cited among others, a certain Kamdem Toukam Eliakim, Juliana Ngwa, Forkwa Edelphine, Arrey Aminatou, yet claimed she does not know their whereabouts.

Our sources equally told us that this was the second time Nadia was being arrested for the same allegations. Nadia was arrested in 2012 and later released in 2015 .

Despite the fact that Evina and other rights activists like Barrister Alice Kom have created a network of defenders of LGBTI+rights, none of the organisations had reached out to intervene in Nadia and Kelly’s case, by the time of this report.

In 2013, when Cameroon’s human rights record was reviewed at the U.N. Human Rights Council, 15 nations urged the country to improve its treatment of LGBTI people.

Cameroon’s network of human rights advocates agree that Article 347-1 of the Penal Code runs contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and even Cameroon’s constitution, which guarantees freedoms and condemns all forms of discrimination including that based on gender.

Article 347-1 prescribes fines of up to 200,000 Central African Francs and prison terms of up to five years for anyone who has sexual with someone of the same sex.

Emmanuel Mbanmi Ndinga, a member of parliament told our reporter last year that not everything in international conventions or charters should be implemented in local law.“We cannot implement aspects that are repugnant to our cultures,” he said of equal rights for sexual and gender minorities.courtesy of TGP

 

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