Four rights groups released a scathing report Thursday claiming Cameroon clamps down on same-sex relationships more ruthlessly than most other nations in the world.
The 55-page report, ‘Guilt by Association: Human Rights Violations in the Enforcement of Cameroon’s Anti-Homosexuality Law,’ was released by Human Rights Watch, Alternatives-Cameroun, Association for the Defence of Gays and Lesbians and the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS.
It found that at least 28 people have been prosecuted for same-sex conduct in Cameroon since 2010.
It presents 10 case studies of arrests and prosecutions under article 347 of Cameroon’s penal code, which punishes homosexual conduct with jail terms ranging from six months to five years and fines convicted between $38 and $374.
“The chief of Cameroon’s police force told Human Rights Watch and the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS that it only applies to those who engage in same-sex conduct publicly,” the report states.
“But among the eight people we identified who were convicted for homosexuality between 2010 and 2012, in no case was there even a suggestion in the evidence presented in court that the accused engaged in sexual intercourse publicly.”
The rights groups claim most cases are marked by severe rights violations, including torture, confessions under coercion, denial of access to legal counsel, and discriminatory treatment by law enforcement and judicial officials.
The report found that most people charged with homosexuality are convicted based on little or no evidence.
It cites several cases in which the law against homosexual conduct was used to settle scores, indicating the law is easily subject to abuse.
Dozens of Cameroonians do jail time solely because they are suspected of being gay or lesbian, the groups claim.
‘About human dignity’
The report recommends that the Cameroon government repeal gay laws it says were unilaterally included in the country’s penal code in 1972 or push for decriminalisation of same-sex conduct through legislative means.
The groups also want President Paul Biya to order law enforcement officials and prosecutors to immediately cease arrests and prosecutions of gays, release all prisoners who are currently detained for consensual adult same-sex and ban the practice of anal examinations to determine homosexuality.
However in February, a group of lawyers affiliated to the Catholic Church in Cameroon backed the country’s anti-gay campaign, saying the laws forbidding the practice must be strictly upheld.
Sandrine Soppo, who heads the Association of Cameroon Roman Catholic jurists, said opposing homosexuality is not a question of violating human rights, a stance often taken by those who want gay unions legalised in the country. According to the lawyer, the question was about human dignity.
On January 30, President Paul Biya told reporters in Paris that “mindsets can evolve in one way or another” regarding same-sex unions after a meeting with his French counterpart François Hollande.
According to Samuel Kléda, the Catholic Archbishop of Douala, homosexuality is against nature, and is condemned by the Bible which considers it an abomination.
The National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon has slammed same-sex unions calling them “forgeries” that undervalue human nature
Homosexuality “falsifies human anthropology and trivialises sexuality, marriage and the family, the foundation of society,” read a February Conference statement which urged “all believers and people of goodwill to reject homosexuality and so-called ‘gay marriage.’”
Archbishop of Yaoundé Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot during Christmas Day mass castigated same sex relationships as “a serious crime against humanity,” adding that “we must stand up and fight it with all our might.”
The declaration followed a Yaoundé appeals court’s decision to uphold a three-year jail sentence against 32-year-old Jean-Claude Roger Mbédé.
Mbédé., who was found guilty of homosexual conduct after sending a text message to another man telling him he loved him, thereafter wrote to the French leader requesting him to ask Biya to grant clemency.