Cameroon: New criminal code, same old homophobia

L'Assemblée nationale du Cameroun (Photo d'
The National Assembly of Cameroun (Photo courtesy of

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.

[Editor’s note: The advocacy group Alternatives-Cameroon has called on President Paul Biya to block enactment of the new Penal Code.]

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.

A disappointment

Alice Nkom , co-fondateur de l'Association pour défendre les homosexuels ( ADEFHO ) au Cameroun (Photo de ) Avocat camerounais Alice Nkom a été menacé de violence en raison de sa défense juridique des clients LGBT.
Alice Nkom 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.

Heated debate

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).]

(Sources of information about the adoption of the new penal code — in French:,, CamerPost and VOA Afrique.)

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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

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