Cameroon: 9 years in prison for gay sex; no witnesses

Location of Limbe in Cameroon (Map courtesy of Penpals-du-Monde.blogspot.com)
Location of Limbe in Cameroon (Map courtesy of Penpals-du-Monde.blogspot.com)

A Cameroon man was sentenced to nine years in prison yesterday (Nov. 20) on homosexuality-related charges.

The sentence imposed on Cornelius Fonya, 35, in the coastal city of Limbe was for same-sex relations with a youth between age 16 and 21. In Cameroon, the maximum sentence for same-sex relations between adults is five years, but the maximum sentence is doubled for same-sex relations with a youth in that age range.

LGBT rights activists from Limbe-based CAMEF (the Cameroon Empowerment Association for Outreach Programs) said that:

  • Fonya had been accused of same-sex relations with a boy, age 14, but it was later proven that the youth was 19 years old.
  • The family accused Fonya of rape, but the relations actually were consensual. (The family disputes that version of the incident.)
  • Fonya’s conviction was not supported by witnesses’ testimony in court. (Instead, the judge reportedly relied on the youth’s statement to police.)

Fonya has been incarcerated for much of the year since Oct. 29, 2012, when a mob seized him, hauled him to the police station, and accused him of same-sex activity.

Since then, he has mostly been held in prison. Fonya posted money for bail and was released.  But the youth’s mother reportedly complained to the judge that her son had become mentally ill because of the sexual encounter and the judge  decided to have Fonya re-arrested.

Activists from CAMEF said:

The legal system in Cameroon has proven once more the homophobic context in which we are currently living in, where it is enough for one to get imprisoned for his or her perceived or actual sexual preferences.

We need to do something so as to put an end to this continuous human rights violation suffered by members of the LGBT community here in Cameroon.

CAMEF has been working hand in hand with Barrister Walter Atoh, who is actually on this case so together we can put an end to this present situation. We hope together with your support, we can do something for Cornelius.

CAMEF described the extreme homophobia of their coastal region in southwest Cameroon:

Many are often beaten in the streets here in the southwest region, which is extremely violent against the gays.

CAMEF has been advocating for the interest of the LGBT community in this part of the country and we have been attacked by the homophobic inhabitants in this part, accusing us of encouraging homosexuality because homosexuals are ‘animals that deserve a death sentence and not worthy of living”! …

Members of the LGBT community are often beaten in the streets, others stoned to death in the past and others arbitrarily detained on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation then sent to prison after being sentenced by a judge with no evidence of same-sex practices.

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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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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