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Cameroon: Money runs out; LGBTI safe house closes

The LGBTI advocacy group Camfaids has run out of funds to keep its safe house open in Cameroon. (See update published Nov.26: Camfaids has secured funds to reopen the safe house.)


From the African Human Rights Media Network


A moment of reflection in the Camfaids shelter. (Photo by Jacks Oke used with permission of the photo subject.)
A moment of reflection in the Camfaids shelter. (Photo by Jacks Oke used with permission of the photo subject.)

By Steeves Winner

For the past three years, the shelter in Yaoundé, Cameroon, had served LGBTI victims of family rejection and violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

People who stayed there spoke highly of the services they received, including psycho-social counseling, food, medical care, support with social reintegration and encouragement/empowerment.

Despite the positive feedback, the shelter was closed on Nov. 6 because of lack of funding from institutional donors. Camfaids still hopes for find renewed funding and reopen the shelter.

Since early 2017, the shelter served LGBTI victims of family rejection and violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Interior of the Camfaids shelter. (Photo by Jacks Oke)
Interior of the Camfaids shelter. (Photo by Jacks Oke)

It could accommodate eight people at a time, who stayed an average of three months while they recovered from emergency situations such as family breakdown, social exclusion, loss of residence, or the difficulties of reentering society after completing a prison sentence resulting from a conviction for violating Cameroon’s law against homosexual activity.

Since it opened in 2017, the shelter has hosted about 100 people, including some living with HIV-AIDS who received comprehensive medical care.

Two beneficiaries of the shelter told what it meant to them — each using a pseudonym for security.

Bernardo:

“This refuge was for me like a second family because I was rejected by my own family in March 2019 because of my sexual orientation. When I arrived here, I met people like me who had similar realities. Thus I had the courage to tell the story of my difficulties related to homophobia, to fight and keep my head up to give meaning to my existence.”

Fiona:

“I spent the last two months at the shelter where I affirmed myself as a transgender person. Loved by all, I felt accepted and fulfilled.”

In addition, Roger (a pseudonym), the manager of the project, said,
“The shelter was a safe and secure place for LGBTI people exposed to the risks of violence of any kind. Today, we call on partners of good will to make whatever effort is necessary to support the reopening of another reception center, in order to sustain this essential action with a marginalized community.”

The last seven short-term residents of the shelter have been relocated to temporary rooms at Camfaids headquarters, pending a more sustainable solution.

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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