Nearly there: If you help, we’ll free 3 LGBT women in Cameroon

LGBTQ+ activists nearly have enough money to assure the early release of three women imprisoned for their sexual orientation and gender identity in eastern Cameroon. With your help, we can bring their sentences to an end and provide them with food and sanitary pads while they await the day when they walk out of Bertoua Central Prison, free to live their lives once again.


From the African Human Rights Media Network


Click on the image to donate.

Activists from the LGBTQ+ rights group 2HRC visited the prisoners late last month, made a first delivery of food to them, and learned what the prisoners need and want.

CLICK HERE to donate to free the three unjustly imprisoned women.

The 2HRC visitors were told that the prisoners’ first priority is having their fines paid so they can leave the prison; a slightly lower priority for the two lesbian prisoners is sanitary napkins, which the prison does not provide.

See the 2HRC report below.

Eva and Marie, a lesbian couple, are serving two-year sentences after they were found hugging each other passionately. Col, a trans woman who has been a sex worker, is imprisoned for one year for dressing as a woman.

This blog’s Not Alone / Pas Seul Project is seeking donations to pay for food and hygiene products for them, as well as to pay the prisoners’ fines so their sentences won’t be extended. U.S. tax-deductible donations to the project will be received by the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation and promptly sent along  to eastern Cameroon.

The location of Bertoua in Cameroon.
The location of Bertoua in Cameroon.

In response to the first appeal last month, generous donors contributed $870. After paying the expenses of 2HRC’s first prison visit, that leaves us $20 short of what’s needed to pay the fines, which total $633. Beyond that, the project will provide further help for the prisoners, if donations allow it. This is the list of those additional expenses, in order of priority:

  • Food/groceries (June-July) for Col (partial month), Marie and Eva (two months), including expenses of transportation and prison access, $232.
  • Sanitary napkins for Marie and Eva (June-July), $17.
  • Eyeglasses for Marie, $146.
  • Food/groceries (Aug.-Sept) for Marie and Eva, including expenses of transportation and prison access, $199.
  • Sanitary napkins (Aug.-Sept.) for Marie and Eva, $17.

Subtotal 1: $631

In addition, the prisoners hope for the following support. If donations at this level seem possible, the Not Alone / Pas Seul project would explore the feasibility and expense of fulfilling these requests:

  • Launch of small business (Eva), $415
  • Apprenticeship in sewing or computers (Marie), $165.
  • Rent and financial aid (Eva), $662
  • Apprenticeship in hairdressing or restaurant industry (Col), $83.

Subtotal 2: $1,132

CLICK HERE to donate.

Bertoua Central Prison. (Courtney Stans photo)

All three women are at Bertoua Central Prison, serving sentences ranging from one to two years.

The prison expects inmates to survive on small amounts of food, distributed only once a day, so the prisoners are malnourished. The hygiene items (bleach, disinfectant soap, etc.) are desperately needed because Bertoua Central Prison is so dirty that prisoners are plagued with skin diseases and stomach aches on top of the new risk of Covid-19. Eva and Marie did not mention their need for sanitary pads when the blog’s reporter visited them early this year; they did when 2HRC activists visited in April, so we hope to add sanitary napkins to the next deliveries.

In addition to the food and hygiene deliveries, the goal of the Not Alone / Pas Seul project is to raise money to pay the three prisoners’ fines. Doing so will allow them to leave prison without having extra months tacked onto their sentences to work off those debts.

Under Cameroonian law, same-sex intimacy is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as 200,000 Central African francs (about US $331).

Eva and Marie were each fined 138,000 Central African francs (about $229 each). After completing a two-year sentence, they will be freed in September if they can pay their fines by then. Otherwise, they remain incarcerated for several more months.

Col’s fine was set at 106,000 Central African francs (about $176). After completing a one-year sentence, she will be freed in July if she can pay the fine. Otherwise, she’ll remain in prison until November.

See the Eva and Marie’s story: “Two years in a Cameroon prison for two women’s passionate hug.”

See Col’s story: “Trans woman seeks to leave prison and sex work. You can help.”

This work in eastern Cameroon is the third phase of the Not Alone / Pas Seul project.

The first phase was in the capital city of Yaoundé in 2018, when donors from Mexico, the United States, France and Luxembourg paid for deliveries of food and hygiene items for three gay prisoners — Albert, Olivier and Eric, each of whom was imprisoned for whom they loved. They ended their sentences well-nourished because of the food, which was delivered by local LGBT rights activists from the organizations Camfaids and Humanity First Cameroon.

The second phase, in 2019, was in Garoua in Muslim-majority northern Cameroon. Activists from Association Jeunes Solidaires Garoua (AJSG) made the deliveries of donated items to Ibrahim,  Abdelaziz and Ismael. In addition, donors paid for an eye exam and glasses for a prisoner suffering from headaches because of his poor eyesight. The project’s donors also paid the expenses of two lawyers who traveled to Garoua, worked there pro bono, and negotiated the payment of the prisoners’ fines and their early release.

This year, in eastern Cameroon, the project is again be working with a local LGBT rights group, this time the organization 2HRC.

To make recurring U.S. tax-deductible donations, go to the project’s account at DonorBox. (You can stop those payments at any point.)

If you want to make one-time U.S. tax-deductible donation for this project immediately, you can do so:

  • On Facebook (“Donate” button at https://www.facebook.com/saintpaulfound/ ) Please send a message that the donation is for the  Not Alone / Pas Seul project.
  • By PayPal.com to the foundation’s account at [email protected] (Please send a message that the donation is for the Not Alone / Pas Seul project.)
  • By sending a check to St. Paul’s Foundation, 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.) Please write “Not Alone / Pas Seul” on the memo line.

Below is the report from 2HRC activists on their visit last month to the three prisoners in Bertoua:

 

REPORT OF THE FIRST VISIT TO THE BERTOUA PRISON

The visit to Bertoua prison was held on Thursday, April 30, 2020. The 2HRC team was made up of three people. Entry to the prison was conditioned by hand washing and also the compulsory wearing of a mask.

The visit took place in the evening in the hall reserved for prisoners’ visits. The prison guards explained that we cannot see the three prisoners at the same time. It was therefore necessary to see one after the other in order to respect community distancing. Also, among us three parties for the visit, just two were allowed to enter so as not to crowd the space reserved for visits and to respect the barrier measures against Covid-19.

Summary of the visits to the three prisoners:

Marie: She is generally well but suffers from eye problems. Covid-19 makes relations between detainees very difficult; everyone has to stay in their corner without much contact. Marie has received no visitors. She had an eye exam during a free ophthalmology clinic at the prison. She needs $146 to purchase the glasses.

Eva: She has been having diarrhea for three days so we gave her 5000 FCFA (about $8) so that she could purchase medication from  the prison doctor. Drugs in the prison are not free. She looks tired and has lost weight.

Col: She is doing well and has no complaints. She has not received any visitors. She lives in isolation.

We propose paying 10,000 FCFA (about $16) per month to each of the three detainees to buy perishable food in the small prison market. Otherwise, because of the heat of the prison cells, food that we deliver can spoil before the prisoners have a chance to consume it.

A sum of 1000 FCFA (about $1.60) was given to each of the three detainees to buy masks to protect themselves against Colvid-19 at the prison.

These were the contents of the grocery packages we delivered:

Two bags of rice
Canned tomatoes
Toilet paper
Dried fish
Cubes, salt and condiments
2 bags of macaroni
Household soaps
Toilet soaps
Toilet paper
Toothbrushes
3 bottles of oil
3 egg containers
Bleach

CLICK HERE to donate to free the three unjustly imprisoned women.

Receipt for groceries that 2HRC activists purchased on April 29 and delivered on April 30 to the three prisoners at Bertoua Central Prison.

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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