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Promising student in Cameroon: Outed, then an outcast

In Cameroon in mid-May,  18-year-old Ades was on track to a university degree and a profitable career. Then his parents learned he is gay.

By Steeves Winner

Ades (a pseudonym) lived with his parents in the city of Mbalmayo. A brilliant student, he had prepared diligently for his baccalaureate exam, which in Cameroon is the gateway to higher education and a career.


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But on May 28, on the eve of the exam, his parents learned that he is gay.

They beat him savagely. He fled. When the baccalaureate exam began, Ades was nowhere to be found. His parents have not seen him since then, according to a friend who is close to the situation and who described the events in this article.

The small city of Mbalmayo is 50 kilometers south of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. (Map courtesy of Ulule.com)
The small city of Mbalmayo is 50 kilometers south of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. (Map courtesy of Ulule.com)

Ades was a senior in a Mbalmayo secondary school. His sexual orientation is not obvious. He is discreet, timid and obedient.

On the way to school one day, Ades met Han (a pseudonym), age 22. The two young men started dating.

For several weeks, Ades’ parents were surprised that their son frequently interrupted his preparations for the exam and left the house. Ades was going to see Han, but he told his parents that he was going to a study group with other classmates.

On the eve of the exam, which is offered only once a year, Ades left home around 2 p.m. to make sure that he knew the test location. Then he went to meet his boyfriend.

At 7 p.m., his parents noticed his absence and began to worry.

They called him on his mobile phone several times, but to no avail. They anxiously awaited his return home.

Ades got back around 8:30 p.m. He gave his parents a lame excuse, which they did not believe. To avoid a scene, Ades went to his room, leaving his phone on the table in the hall.

In his absence, the phone buzzed, signaling that Ades had received a message. His mother picked up the phone and discovered a love note signed by a man. Then she read through all the messages exchanged between the two boyfriends.

She immediately grabbed a cudgel from the courtyard, ran to Ades’ room and began beating him. Shocked, his father looked on in silence.

Ades suffered a series of heavy blows from his cudgel-wielding mother. Then he managed to escape.

When the baccalaureate exam began, Ades was nowhere to be seen. He has not returned home, though his parents say they would welcome him back.

Without passing the baccalaureate exam, Ades’ future is bleak.

Steeves Winner, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at steeves.w@yahoo.com.

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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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