LGBT rights advocates in Cameroon are fighting the new pandemic even as anti-Covid-19 restrictions hamper their work.
By Courtney Stans
The global coronavirus health crisis has imposed new burdens on LGBT organizations in Cameroon, limiting their efforts to combat HIV and their work assisting victims of homophobic violence.
They often feel suffocated by the new limitations on travel and meetings.
But LGBT groups — Affirmative Action, Alternatives Cameroon, Positive Génération and many others — are helping to combat Covid-19 by producing posters and pamphlets to inform their members about how to limit the spread of the new virus.
“We have a duty to participate in the fight against this new global pandemic. This contributes to our protection but also to that of our beneficiaries for whom we are responsible,” one LGBT activist said.
Of course, they encourage systematic hand-washing and use of disinfectant gels. LGBT organizations’ staff work from their homes.
As a result of government public-health regulations, community HIV prevention activities have been suspended and HIV care is weakened.
People are urged to stay at home and not approach each other closer than one meter. Meetings are prohibited. Shops and nightclubs must close at 6 p.m. The government set a limit of three passengers in taxis and 50 people (previously 70) on inter-city buses.
Many LGBT people are restricting their movement not only because of the coronavirus but also for fear of violence from law enforcement forces who have increased their presence on the streets.
Cameroon currently has 182 cases of people with Covid-19 and 6 deaths.
[April 2 update: 263 cases, still 6 deaths, and 10 people who have recovered.]
Police are sealing shops that exceed maximum numbers for customers, impounding vehicles that carry too many passengers, and this week arrested more than 50 prostitutes for sneaking into hotels used to isolate suspected cases. …
Authorities … isolated more than 500 citizens and 70 foreigners in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. All of those quarantined flew into the central African state on March 17th and 18th before the government closed the borders and suspended issuance of visas until further notice.
However, 150 of those quarantined escaped from their hotels. The government is searching for them, as well as another 186 people who returned home from France and Italy on March 17 and refused to be isolated. …
Troops have shut down stores for allowing in too many customers, closed markets for not respecting hygiene norms, and stopped buses that carried too many passengers.
Close to 400 taxis were ordered off the road in Yaounde alone for transporting more than the maximum three passengers per vehicle.
The author of this article, Courtney Stans, is a journalist in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.