Pressure on Cameroon to halt human rights abuses

Cameroon President Paul Biya (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
In 2006, Cameroon President Paul Biya called privacy “sacred.” (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Activist groups are keeping up the pressure on President Paul Biya to halt Cameroon’s harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBTs). But so far he has made no response to their pleas.

In October, Biya received a letter from a dozen anti-AIDS and pro-human rights groups in Cameroon, along with human rights organizations outside the country, asking him to revoke Article 347A of the Penal Code, which imposes prison sentences for people who have sex with people of the same sex. This law has led to several current cases of human rights violations and violates various international treaties that Cameroon has signed, the letter said.

The advocacy groups argued that Biya, as president, is bound by international law and customary law “to protect and promote the human rights of all citizens of Cameroon and accountable to the international community actions in this matter.”

À CAMFAIDS, la journée mondiale de lutte contre le VIH/SIDA. (Photo par Eric Lembembe)
CAMFAIDS sponsored a discussion about HIV/AIDS on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. (Photo by Eric Lembembe)

Also in October, a report by Human Rights Watch denounced Cameroon’s record of violating the human rights of actual and suspected LGBT people. The report was submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council by HRW in partnership with local LGBT organizations such as Affirmative Action, Alternatives Cameroon, the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Evolve, and Humanity First Cameroon.

The report, which was sent as part of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of human rights issues in member countries, stated that “human rights violations targeting lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Cameroon extend beyond the threat of criminal prosecution. Police violence against LGBT people is everywhere, included documented cases of police brutality that amount to torture. ”

At least six people are currently being held in jail for homosexuality in Cameroon, according to  CAMFAIDS.   LGBT associations are calling for their immediate release.

High risk of HIV / AIDS

Une discussion du sida présenté par CAMFAIDS. (Photo par Eric Lembembe)
Discussion of AIDS organized by CAMFAIDS for World AIDS Day. (Photo by Eric Lembembe)

Another argument for decriminalization of homosexuality in Cameroon is that the anti-homosexuality law obstructs the work of associations fighting against HIV / AIDS among men who have sex with men.

“The 2011-2015 national strategic plan for the fight against AIDS clearly indicates that men who have sex with men are considered persons at high risk of infection. The criminalization of homosexuality makes it difficult to work with them,” says Dominique Menoga Nanga, president CAMFAIDS. “The law promotes an atmosphere of secrecy that is conducive to risk-taking. That not only puts at risk the men who have sex with men but also their families, especially their potential female partners, whether they are married or not.”

—Eric O. LEMBEMBE

This is an English translation of the French-language post “Haro sur les violations des droits des LGBTI au Cameroun.”

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