By Jean Marc Yao
The west-central African nation of Cameroon has adopted a new criminal code which, unfortunately, shows no signs of shaking off the nation’s homophobia.
As with the previous penal code, adopted in 1967, the new one that the National Assembly adopted June 22 punishes homosexuality up to 5 years of imprisonment.
The vote to adopt the new penal code was boycotted by deputies of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF). However, the SDF apparently did not object to the homophobic nature of the text; its boycott was on other grounds.
The new Criminal Code contains several other provisions contrary to human rights and democratic principles. These include, for example, the death penalty and a grant of immunity for government ministers while in office.
Camer.be reports that Alice Nkom, president of the Board of Directors of the Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa (REDHAC), said REDHAC had expected better from the Cameroonian government “and especially the Minister of Justice”:
“A bill that would restrain the actions of government officials who violate people’s fundamental freedoms and allow reprisals of all kinds against human rights defenders, journalists and other activists who [perform public services] that the state has abandoned.
“REDHAC requests the outright withdrawal of this bill and puts the government on notice that, instead of promoting and protecting human rights, it only increases public frustration and unhappiness, which could become the basis for insecurity and a popular uprising.“
Camerpost reports that the plenary session of the National Assembly was “particularly long” with “particularly stormy” debates. It also stated in its coverage of the session:
“Other aspects discussed in plenary focused on the issue of criminalization of homosexuality. Laurent Esso expressed surprise that the bill provided only a ‘weak’ monetary fine for homosexuality. The Minister of State said that those found guilty of these practices face six months to five years in prison. “
[That is like the comparable section of the old penal code, where a prison term of six months to five years was provided for homosexual activity and fines of 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs (US $34 to $340).]
- Cameroon lawyer: It’s time to repeal our anti-gay law
- 91 anti-LGBT attacks and violations: Cameroon’s 2015 tally (January 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Cameroon lawyer beaten up for defending gay man (December 2015, 76crimes.com)
- LGBTI life improves in homophobic Cameroon (July 2015, 76crimes.com)
- After attacks, LGBTI defenders in Cameroon seek safety (July 2013, 76crimes.com)
- Cameroon leader claims progress, but leaves LGBTs in jail (February 2013, 76crimes.com)
- Abandoned: Plans to keep AIDS fighters safe in Cameroon (September 2013, 76crimes.com)