A family torn apart by homophobia in Cameroon

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A year-end report about homophobia in Cameroon contains a heart-wrenching story about a family torn apart by fear of homosexuality.

The story comes from a report compiled by Humanity First, a Yaoundé-based organization seeking improved health care for LGBTI Cameroonians and recognition of their human rights.

The organization explained that, once a young man or young woman in Cameroon is suspected of being homosexual, their family in most cases will try every conceivable method of “correcting” their sexual orientation, regardless of how much sorrow that causes.  Often a family will lock up a  young boy in a room with a girl — usually a sex worker who has been paid in advance — on the theory that this forced sex will turn the boy into a heterosexual.  When such tricks fail, the family rejects their child and leaves him homeless.

In the following case, the victims are a young man and his son, who are forced to live apart from each when their family discovered the father’s sexual orientation. This is how Humanity First Cameroon described the tragedy:

Christian, a young businessman in Yaoundé was disowned by his family and  deprived of contact with his son after his family saw his friends and concluded that he was gay.

On June 14, it was Christian’s turn to serve as the host for a group of friends who would visit a different member of the group each month. The evening started well, until Christian’s older brother ordered the friends to leave the house.

“Get out. People of your kind are not welcome here,” he said. Scared, they all left.

The family then held a meeting at which his father, his mother and his brothers all asked him if was a homosexual. They and their neighbors believed his friends were part of a “homosexual sect.” 

He acknowledged that he was homosexual. His family said, “We would have preferred that you had told us you’re HIV-positive instead of homosexual. HIV infection is less shameful that this evil thing you say you are.”

They threw out the food that he had prepared for his friends, because it was dirty, having been purchased for homosexuals. They then told him to choose between his family and his “demonic sexual orientation.” It would be “better to have a dead brother than a gay brother,” they told him.

Christian tried to tell them that it was not a matter of choice, but they told him to leave the house and forget them. One of his brothers tore up his birth certificate and shouted,  “You are not worthy to carry our family name.”

Christian tried to take his six-year-old son with him, but his older brother stopped him. The brother told him not to touch the son, for fear that he might become contaminated with homosexuality. He’s no longer your son, the family said.

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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