A gang of homophobic thugs assaulted and robbed two young men in Cameroon, claiming that they were homosexuals who needed to be scared straight. It’s an all-too-familiar story in Cameroon, where such attacks lead to depression and passivity in the LGBTI community:
By Erin Royal Brokovitch
P. and T. are friends. Just friends. On the night of Dec. 29, T. was visited at home by P. The two of them, ages 21 and 18, spent the whole day together in the company of a third friend. In the evening, the third friend needed to leave, so P. and T. went with him to find a taxi.
It was about 8:45 p.m. in the Anguissa district of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon.
As the two friends were returning to T.’s house, they were stopped by a group of young men sitting in front of the hairdressing salon across from Anguissa High School.
The men labeled them as homosexuals and accused them of drugging straight men’s drinks in order to abuse them. The two friends denied it. One of the accusers walked up to them and seized one friend by the collar of his shirt. The rest of the group then surrounded them.
Frightened, P. tried to escape. The young assailants blocked his way and began beating both of them, especially P. , whose lip was split. The friends’ belongings were stolen, including their phones and their wallets containing their small savings, P.’s watch and his pair of glasses.
A few minutes later, T.’s mother, who had just learned what was happening, arrived to express her anger and to challenge the thugs to justify their actions. The assailants replied that P. and T. were homosexuals who had been seen loitering in the public square and they wanted to “correct” their deviance. P. and T. said that was a lie, since they had walked quickly through the crowded neighborhood.
T.’s mother demanded that the young men return the items they had stolen, but the men refused. It was clear that the group of homophobic delinquents had exploited the apparent gender expression of two effeminate youths and used it as an excuse for thievery.
The incident was a common scenario in Yaoundé neighborhoods, where thugs victimize young people they perceive to be homosexual. Sometimes the thugs mock them with whistles and rude remarks. Sometimes they attack them or extort them.
The thugs consider themselves to be a “People’s Parliament” with the right to impose their own laws.
This type of “neighborhood homophobia” has adverse consequences on the personality, the psychological balance of gays and effeminate people. For LGBTI and apparently effeminate Cameroonians, it produces depression, lowers self-esteem, affects mental health and impedes personal development.
One positive aspect of the Jan. 29-30 incident is that, as a result of the work of LGBT associations over the past few years, the two victims resolved to file a complaint. That courageous act contrasts with the more common response of LGBTI abuse victims in Cameroon — passively accepting their victimization out of a fear of reprisals and doing nothing to change their hellishly homophobic environment.
Unfortunately, after having approached the Humanity First advocacy group for assistance, their effort faltered. Humanity First volunteers took the young friends to a health center and advised them to get medical certificates documenting their injuries. But the association at that moment lacked funds to provide them with medical and legal assistance. As a result, the victims did not have the certificates or the legal support they would have needed to file a successful complaint with police.
Erin Royal Brokovitch, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym.
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