Lexa, a 19-year-old student, thinks back with sadness and anger to what she endured on the night of Oct. 18.
That was when she and two girlfriends endured “corrective rapes” by four young men who thought the three young women were lesbians.
In “corrective” rapes, women suspected or accused of being lesbians are raped both as a punishment and in the misguided belief that the rape will change their sexual orientation. Such rapes, which are common in Cameroon, have also been reported in Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Uganda and frequently in South Africa, where the term “corrective rape” originated.
Another “corrective” rape in Cameroon occurred in November to a lesbian in the Omnisport section of Yaoundé. The woman, a 23-year-old named Sam, reported the crime to police but they took no action against the rapist.
Lexa and her friends did not report their rapes to police out of fear of retribution.
THE RAPE OF LEXA AND FRIENDS
This is Lexa’s story of what happened on Oct. 18. One of the accused rapists denied portions of her account, but confirmed other parts.
That night, she was invited by her girlfriend, Manuela, 20, to have a drink with her and a man who was courting her. In fact, Manuela’s suitor, known as Daddy, was the person who wanted Lexa to join them.
At 10 p.m., when Lexa arrived at the bar in the Obili neighborhood of Yaoundé, she met up with Manuela, Daddy and Clarisse, another friend of Lexa.
A few minutes before the end of the evening, around 1 a.m., the group was joined by Stéphane, Daddy’s cousin.
At that point, the three women were nervous, because each of them still lived with her family, which makes late-night arrivals at home very complicated.
To solve that problem, Daddy offered to let them spend the night at his place in Obili, where they could sleep on their own in a separate room. The women accepted his offer and went home with Daddy, who lives with his cousin Stéphane.
About 45 minutes after the women went to bed, Stéphane came knocking at their door. He asked – three times – if Manuela would make love with him and three times she refused. She said that was an inappropriate and misplaced suggestion, since she was Daddy’s girlfriend.
A few minutes later, Stéphane became pushy and no longer accepted Manuela’s refusals. He forced open the bedroom door and woke up everyone inside. Then he demanded that they all make love with him.
The noise woke Daddy, who was sleeping in an outside room. He asked what was going on.
Stéphane claimed that he had seen Manuela and Clarisse making love to each other. They denied it. They had merely been asleep, they declared.
Stéphane became violent. He hauled Clarisse and Manuela into the living room and starting beating them.
Daddy pulled Lexa outside to ask her for an explanation of what was happening. While she was telling him, Stéphane interrupted her and forced her to be quiet. Then, to her astonishment, Daddy and Stéphane dragged her inside.
The noise woke up two neighbors, who came to see what was going on.
Stéphane continued to pummel the women, and was joined in this by Daddy. He and Stéphane called them “dirty lesbians” and asked them why they were that way. Stéphane threatened to call the police to report them.
Stéphane then dragged Clarisse back into the bedroom. There he demanded a blowjob.
In the living room, the other women were held back by the two neighbors.
A few moments later, the two neighbors also went into the bedroom. With Stéphane, they took turns raping Clarisse. Then Daddy joined them and raped her too.
The noise disturbed a woman living nearby, who inquired what was happening. When she found out, she said, “That’s what they do. They rape girls.” Then she went back to bed.
The nightmare was not over.
After Clarisse, the men dragged Manuela into the bedroom, where she was brutally sodomized by Daddy.
Next it was Lexa’s turn. Stéphane climbed onto her. Before the rape, she later said, she was a virgin. She believes that the penetration was only superficial, for which she is grateful.
It was almost 6 a.m. when the nightmare ended. The women, who had been stripped of their jewelry, went directly to the hospital because Clarisse was bleeding.
Appalling as the men’s behavior was, the women do not want to press charges for fear that their families would consider them to be tainted by the rapes.
None of them sought any redress for what was done to them. They just wanted to turn the page, they said. Friends encouraged them to report the rapes to police, but they refused.
Stéphane denies much, but not all, of Lexa’s account.
He said he was awakened by his cousin, Daddy, who told him that the women were lesbians. The men then spied on the women in their room and realized that they were having sex.
He said he challenged the women to tell him why they were lesbians and advised them to “stop this life.” Lesbianism, he claimed, is an occult practice that is “not of this world.”
Stéphane alleged that he confiscated the women’s jewelry temporarily, along with their phones, after the women told him that such jewelry allowed lesbians to recognize each other. For him, the jewelry were “signs of belonging to their cult” — the cult of homosexuality.
Lexa verified that their phones were later returned to them.
According to Lexa, Daddy later admitted that he had been courting Manuela because she had a boyish appearance, which made him think that she was a lesbian. Raping her had been his plan all along.
His comments were what made Lexa conclude that the incident was a case of “corrective” rape. Among his comments, Daddy had challenged Lexa about lesbianism, asking, “Why are you doing this?” and “Have you ever tried it with boys?”
THE RAPE OF SAM
A less complicated incident of “corrective” rape occurred to Sam, 23, who lives in the Omnisport area of Yaoundé.
In November, she declined a man’s invitation to go out with him, explaining him that she is a lesbian. The man seemed to understand and let the matter drop.
A few days later, though, he insisted that Sam and her girlfriend, Van, join him for a drink.
That day, after they met for that drink, he accompanied Sam and Van on a walk and asked them to kiss as confirmation that they were indeed lesbians. To convince him, the two women kissed.
Later, the man asked Sam to come to his home to get a package that he had for her. Confident that he was trustworthy, she followed him.
Once there, he rushed at her and raped her. She suffered lacerations during the attack.
He warned her that if she dared to take any action against him, he would report her homosexuality to police and to spread the word everywhere that she is “a fat lesbian.”
Unlike Lexa and her friends, Sam reported the rape to police. The rapist not only denied her charge but also counterattacked by telling police that she was a lesbian.
Police detained him briefly at the police station, then released him after a few hours. No charges have been filed against him.
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