Anti-gay Cameroonians target LGBTI rights activists

During renewed national discussions of Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality law, anti-gay Cameroonians have targeted, threatened and harassed LGBTI rights advocates, some of whom were driven from their homes.

Alternatives-Cameroon, the Douala-based advocacy organization that fights against Aids and for recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people, reported the harassment in a press release:

Homosexuality in Cameroon:
When social media become a danger for LGBTI activists

Image from a YouTube video from 2014 by Africagay Contre le Sida (the Africagay Against Aids network)
The title page from a 2014 YouTube video by Africagay Contre le Sida (the Africagay Against Aids network)

A revision of the Penal Code in Cameroon in recent days has fueled a resurgence of homophobia in social media. The root cause is that the new version of the Penal Code not only retains the old version’s criminalization of homosexuality, but even strengthens it.

Parliament’s approval of the revised Penal Code on June 28 fueled increasingly homophobic sentiments that appeared on social media in Cameroon. The revised version of the Penal Code has maintained the provision that criminalizes sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex. [Article 347-1 of Bill N° 989/PJL/AN]

During discussions of the proposed new Penal Code, LGBTI activists had already begun to suffer mostly violent comments in the media and on social networks. This media exposure of LGBTI advocates sparked anti-gay attitudes.

Thus, since early June, photos and videos of members of Alternatives- Cameroon have been going the rounds of social networks. In a documentary video made in 2014 by the Africagay Against Aids network to lay the groundwork for advocacy against homophobia and HIV/Aids in Africa, the president of Alternatives-Cameroon and the international director/coordinator of the AfricaGay network were recognized by online computer users, suffered slander and were threatened.

In addition, on the night of June 27-28, photos of five other members of Alternatives-Cameroon appeared on social networks. They were maligned and threatened online. Some were driven from their homes and others had to flee hostile neighbors. Now they are homeless, living temporarily with relatives.

The safety of LGBTI activists in Cameroon has been seriously threatened.

Above all, Cameroon’s digital security law penalizes electronic messages related to homosexuality. [See Article 83 of Law N°2010/012 of December 21, 2010, on Cybersecurity and Cybercriminality.]

We denounce:

  • These serious violations of fundamental rights of LGBTI people, and regret that Cameroon is rowing against the current of fundamental rights of security, freedom and privacy;
  • This new wave of institutionalized homophobia.

We ask:

  • The President of the Republic to stay the enactment of this criminal law that violates citizens’ fundamental rights.
  • Parliament to take effective measures to ensure the protection of sexual minorities and their supporters.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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