Cameroon: ‘Get out of this hell’ is gay prisoner’s first goal

“First get out of this hell.” That’s the future that a prisoner at Yaoundé’s Central Prison envisions for himself after spending four years of his life there for homosexuality.

Next he plans to move away from Yaoundé. Then maybe open a restaurant once again.

This is the second of three articles about the three prisoners in Yaoundé, Cameroon, who are serving prison sentences for homosexuality. Under Article 347-bis of Cameroon’s penal code, same-sex intimacy is punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years.

A symbolic image of Oliver, imprisoned since 2014 for violating Cameroon's law against homosexual activity. Photos are not allowed in Yaoundé's central prison.
A symbolic image of Oliver, imprisoned since 2014 for violating Cameroon’s law against homosexual activity. Photos are not allowed in Yaoundé’s central prison.

By Steeves Winner

Olivier, age 26, has been living since Sept. 25, 2014, in the central prison of Yaoundé.

Originally from the Central Cameroon region, he is a large young man with a dark complexion, shy, perceptive and ambitious.

He was trained in the restaurant business at a young age, with financial support from his mother.  (That was long before he came out.) Fatherless, he was always strongly influenced by his mother, who pushed him to excel in his education.

From a Christian family, he grew up in fear of God. He went through a very difficult time when he began to realize his sexual orientation. When he came out at age 17, he felt misunderstood, rejected and abused by his family.

He endured that for three years, then left home to settle with his friend, Albert, and open a little restaurant together.

All went well until a homophobic neighbor complained to police. Albert and Olivier were arrested, charged, and convicted of homosexuality.

In four years, Olivier has not seen his family except one prison visit by his mother. He says:

“I feel exhausted. My life has been ruined.

“My dream was to persevere in my business so I could eventually open a great restaurant on my own. Is it still possible? I don’t know.

“Reviving my restaurant would be the best reintegration strategy for me. But I have no funding and no support.

“I will need to find housing because my family will never let me return home.

“For now, first I’d like to get myself out of this hell. Then I will see if I can find a way to  settle outside the city of Yaounde. Here the people who know me discriminate against me.”

That’s what remains of the ambitions of a young man whose dream has been broken.

Steeves Winner, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at [email protected]

Written by Courtney Stans

Courtney Stans is the pseudonym for a Cameroonian human rights defender whose name is withheld for her protection. She fills the role of reporter covering LGBTI issues in Cameroon, where our previous reporter, Eric Ohena Lembembe, was murdered in July 2013. Contact her by email via [email protected]

8 Comments

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  1. A country that has and practice laws that enable authorities to imprison people because they are, or are presumed homosexual should be denied all(!) privileges that are common among civilised countries, including receiving international aid, wereby non-governmental organisations must be forced to leave such a country, access to other cother countries, getting visa to other countries, are aprt of economic organisations, be part of trade treaties etc. etc. Till the moment the anti-homosexual hate-laws are repealed and full acceptance and equal treatment of everybody is ensured, implemented and enforced, and all those who do not folow the new laws be arrested and covicted to long and harsh prison sentences!
    Till today soft-treatments of such countries did not change anything, I think it is time to nationally and internationally strong preasure must be put on these kind of inhuman countries, forcing them in all possible ways and manners to change their anti-homosexual and anti-human policies and laws! My opinion!

    • Who are we to decide what is right or wrong!? Each country has its own culture and standards – which we must respect! In many Western countries, poligamy, for example, is illegal whereas it is acceptable in a number of African countries. I have never heard of any African country forcing/pressurising Western countries to legalise poligamy. Why then should Western countries put pressure on African countries to accept LGBTQs? Who has given them this right!? Africans have their cultures and Westerners have theirs. Trying to force people to accept what they consider wrong has never worked. Let us leave each culture decide what is wrong or acceptable to them – period!

  2. Who determines what is anti-homo or pro-homo? All countries have rules and no other country should impose its views on other countries. Many countries in the world accept polygamy and this is outlawed in many west countries. Those countries that practice polygamy should not impose it on countries that don’t. Therefore, countries that accept LGBTQs should not impose their view on countries where these practices are outlawed. Imposing our views on others has never worked and will never work. So, stop making silly comments.

  3. Who are we to decide what is right or wrong!? Each country has its own culture and standards – which we must respect! In many Western countries, poligamy, for example, is illegal whereas it is acceptable in a number of African countries. I have never heard of any African country forcing/pressurising Western countries to legalise poligamy. Why then should Western countries pressurise African countries to accept LGBTQs? Who has given them this right!? Africans have their cultures and Westerners have theirs. Trying to force people to accept what they consider wrong has never worked. Let us leave each culture decide what is wrong or acceptable to them – period!

  4. Who are we to decide what is right or wrong!? Each country has its own culture and standards – which we must respect! In many Western countries, polygamy, for example, is illegal whereas it is acceptable in a number of African countries. I have never heard of any African country forcing/pressurising Western countries to legalise polygamy. Why then should Western countries pressurise African countries to accept LGBTQs? Who has given them this right!? Africans have their cultures and Westerners have theirs. Trying to force people to accept what they consider wrong has never worked. Let us leave each culture decide what is wrong or acceptable to them – period!

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Ajit Bhide, president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, discussed the society's declaration that homosexuality is not an illness. Click the image to watch the video.

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