Members of a legal aid organization in Cameroon are bearing the brunt of Cameroon’s homophobia for supporting the rights of sexual minorities and HIV-positive Cameroonians. They have been evicted from their homes and office, face a criminal charge of promoting homosexuality, and were assaulted by a homophobic mob. But there’s new hope that they will receive help from the Rapid Response Fund.
By Steeves Winner
In September, members of Defenders Without Borders (Défenseurs Sans Frontières, or DSF) were attacked by youths in the Nkoldongo neighborhood of Yaoundé when they attempted to conduct a training session about the legal rights of HIV-positive people, including gays and lesbians.
Insulted and threatened by the assembled youths, DSF suspended the training session and instructed participants to return home. That did not eliminate the danger. Thugs rioted in the neighborhood, warning people that gays were present and might contaminate children with their homosexuality.
Six gay men were beaten and robbed of their cell phones. Three managed to escape unscathed.
As news of the event spread, four participants in the training were evicted from their homes by family members and were left homeless, dependent for shelter on the generosity of friends.
DSF was evicted from its office, leaving it with nowhere to conduct its activities.
DSF executive coordinator Stéphane Aboa was summoned by the police to answer to a charge of promoting homosexuality.
The organization requested help from the Rapid Response Fund (RRF) of Frontline AIDS, but was told it did not qualify. RRF is an emergency assistance fund for activists who are victims of violence related to their fight against HIV / AIDS.
NOV. 18 UPDATE:
In its response to the blog, RRF expressed willingness to work with DSF to see if it could qualify for assistance.
RRF wrote, “As you may have heard, after further internal due diligence this morning following DSF’s enquiries, my colleagues are in touch with DSF about this issue and we are giving further feedback for them to finalise an application that would meet our standard Rapid Response Fund criteria and enable us to support them in responding to this situation.”
The goals of DSF are to defend human rights in general and to fight for access to health care, especially HIV / AIDS treatment, for the general population, including LGBTI people, young people, disabled people, women and others.
During the past summer, DSF worked with this blog and financial supporters to bring about the early release of three prisoners in north Cameroon who were sentenced to prison after being convicted of homosexuality.DSF
“Being a human rights defender means being able to defend all rights without exception. It is for this reason that DSF intervened a few months ago for the release of three homosexuals sentenced for homosexuality in North Cameroon. In addition, we regularly intervene in cooperation with several other organizations such as Alternatives-Cameroun Yaoundé, AVAF and CAMFAIDS , to name but a few, in cases of arbitrary arrests, violence etc. “
DSF is still seeking to achieve the goals it presented to RRF — relocation of the three members of DSF who are currently homeless, rental of a new secure office, and an advocacy workshop in the Nkoldongo neighborhood to diffuse residents’ concerns
- We freed 3 gay men from prison (September
- New lawyers’ group fights violence and stigma in Cameroon (
Steeves Winner, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org