LGBTI advocates in Cameroon join forces to challenge violence

During an April 2 press conference, Michel Engama, head of the Unity human rights watchdog platform, discusses the new report on last year’s anti-LGBTI violence in Cameroon.(Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

The number of recorded incidents of violence against LGBTI people has been growing in Cameroon, both because of ongoing homophobic attacks and also because human rights advocacy groups have improved their  ability to document those abuses.

This year, for the first time, human rights advocates joined forces to produce a combined report on violations.

For several years, two separate groups of LGBTI advocacy organizations had  produced reports — one from the Unity human rights watchdog coalition and one from Alternatives Cameroon and Humanity First.

Presentation of the joint report of anti-LGBTI violence in 2020 in Cameroon. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

The reports showed increasing numbers of violations — 578 cases in 2017; 1,134 in 2018; and 1,380 in 2019. The new combined report listed 2,031 cases of anti-LGBTI violence and violations last year. The partner organizations said the new report was the result of better compilation and collection of data, broader geographic coverage, and improved training of field observers.

The report was drafted by a committee of 11 LGBTI advocates representing Alternatives-Cameroon, Humanity First Cameroon, Camfaids, the LBQ Movement, RITA (the Independent Network of Transgender Africans) and the Unity Platform (the National Observatory of the Rights of LGBTI People and their Defenders).

Richard Bale, Canadian High Commissioner to Cameroon, attended the presentation to lend his support to the work of documenting anti-LGBTI violence in Cameroon. (Photo courtesy of Camfaids)

Their work was hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the war against Boko Haram terrorists and the violent Anglophone crisis in the country’s northwest and southwest.

The report stated that 930 LGBTI persons were victims of gender-based violence last year, with transgender persons the most frequent victims.

Official responses to anti-LGBTI violence occurs only in about 10 percent of cases, the report stated, both because victims often are too scared to seek help from law enforcement and because police often take no action in cases that are reported to them. Perpetrators of violence against LGBTI persons often go unpunished, the report stated.

The official presentation of the report was made on April 2 by the UNITY Platform in front of an audience composed of community leaders, the Canadian High Commissioner in Cameroon and media representatives.

The president of the UNITY Platform said: “It is a victory for the LGBTI community in Cameroon, especially for LGBTI organizations, to produce this country report on violence against sexual and gender minorities. This report will be used for advocacy purposes to build an enabling environment. “

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]

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