AIDS Day appeal to free gay prisoners in Cameroon

(This is an English translation of the French-language post, “Au Cameroun, un appel pour la santé et la liberté.”)

The activist organization CAMFAIDS today made a Worlds AIDS Day appeal to the Cameroonian government:

  • On World AIDS Day, CAMFAIDS provided this  demonstration of how to reduce risk of contracting HIV.
    On World AIDS Day, CAMFAIDS provided this demonstration of how to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

    For the Ministry of Health to publicly call for the decriminalization of consensual relationships between people of the same sex, in order to ensure equitable access to the right to health.

  • For the immediate release of all prisoners detained because of the country’s anti- homosexuality law.

CAMFAIDS — the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS — said:

At least five people are currently in Cameroonian prisons on the basis of Article 347 A, two of them serving sentences for sex between consenting persons of the same sex, and at least three others who are in custody while awaiting trial.   At least four others are out on bail while awaiting court action.

Affiche du 1 decembre au Cameroun: dépistages et table ronde
World AIDS Day events in Cameroon included free, confidential HIV testing and a round table discussion about youth and HIV testing.

CAMFAIDS was created in May 2010 by Cameroonian students and employees concerned with the rapid spread of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the city of Yaounde and its environs, especially those who live in the university area (city of Soa) and are of a sexually active age.

Here is the CAMFAIDS press release:

On World AIDS Day, CAMFAIDS is concerned about the continuing arrests of individuals on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.  We call for the immediate release of all who have been detained on the basis of homosexuality in Cameroon.

At least five people are currently in Cameroonian prisons on the basis of Article 347 A, two of them serving sentences for sex between consenting persons of the same sex, and at least three others who are in custody while awaiting trial.   At least four others are out on bail while awaiting court action.

CAMFAIDS discussion on World AIDS Day.
CAMFAIDS discussion on World AIDS Day.

All this, despite the call made recently by the High Commissioner of the United Nations Human Rights to end arbitrary arrests and detention of all persons suspected of homosexual behavior, and access to justice for persons already held. All this occurs despite the many international treaties ratified by Cameroon protecting the right to privacy and the right to non-discrimination and in  violation of the Constitution of Cameroon and the nation’s Code of Criminal Procedure.

The National Strategic Plan against HIV, AIDS and sexually transmitted infections 2011-2015 specifically targets men who have sex with men (MSM), proposing strategies and high-priority actions to improve the legislative and social environment. But nothing has changed in the legislative environment or have interventions occurred  for the population groups that are most vulnerable to HIV.

Worse, a bill under consideration would strengthen penalties for homosexuality. These actions are in total contradiction with the strategy recommended by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, whose 2012 report recommends that nations  [… decriminalize consensual sexual and private nature between adults, including sex between people of the same sex and consensual sex work …], and the UNAIDS Guidance Note on MSM, which recommends […amending laws prohibiting sexual acts between consenting adults in private; enforcing anti-discrimination; providing legal aid services, and promoting campaigns
that address homophobia. 
…]

We ask:

Of CAMNAFAW (the Cameroon National Planning Association for Family Welfare), which is the principal recipient of aid from the Global Fund for Civil Society:

  • To work in accordance with the requirements and recommendations of UNAIDS, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and other technical and financial partners in providing for measures to decriminalize homosexual practices and facilitating access to legal support those arrested.
  • To show solidarity with other concerned groups by publicly condemning homosexuality arrests, threats received by lawyers providing legal assistance to arrested persons, and attacks on those who fight against HIV among MSM.
  • To remove activities related to values from their strategy of intervention among key populations. Those activities stigmatize and are judgmental toward gay people.

Of the Ministry of Health:

  • To direct the Department of Health to publicly call for the decriminalization of consensual relationships between people of the same sex, in order to ensure equitable access to the right to health.
  • Until Article 347 A is repealed, to publicly clarify that nobody should be deprived of access to health services and handed over to the police on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • To create hospitals and health services in major cities in which health workers are trained and equipped to reach men who have sex with men and other populations at risk.
  • To train all health care staff in all public hospitals on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • To ensure respect and protection for the rights of health personnel, social workers and other people or organizations that provide information, materials or services to men who have sex with men, or women who have sex with women.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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