In reaction sought by the BBC to Wednesday's Supreme Court decision on LGBT asylum, which involved an Iranian and a Cameroonian, Cameroon's Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma told them that:
"Homosexuality is forbidden by the law, there is no doubt. But what I can emphasise is the fact that no homosexual is persecuted in Cameroon."HT certainly is not, but a cursory trawl just through the LGBT Asylum News archives reveals a stack of documented evidence of persecution of LGBT in Cameroon, both by the State as well as the general public - who were both involved in the beating and attempted penis-removal of HT which lies at the core of his asylum case.
"Do you think he ('HT', the applicant in the Supreme Court case) is the only gay person in Cameroon?"
In 2005 Ndiki Samuel Eleazard rang into a provincial radio show and said he was gay. Him and his boyfriend Xavier were "dragged to the local constabulary and well beaten". Ndiki sought asylum in France.
In 2008 Anatole Zali was threatened by police and the subject of an arrest warrant. He sought sanctuary in Switzerland. Amnesty International told Swiss authorities that:
Those detained or imprisoned in Cameroon because of their alleged sexual orientation have been targeted for ill-treatment in custody.In 2009 the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called on African journalists to beware the dangers of prejudice and discrimination facing gay people after a report that a journalists' group in Cameroon has put at risk colleagues by making public accusations of homosexuality in a country where the practice is forbidden by law.
They are often subjected to verbal and physical threats from other inmates.
AFP reported last year that:
For gay men in Cameroon, where homosexual acts are punishable by five years in prison, it is still safest to live in hiding. Especially since the persecution of gays has intensified, including with the publication of a top 50 list of "suspected gays" and regular arrests. But some are fighting for the right to live a normal life.
Last year IPS News interviewed Alice Nkom, a rare Cameroonian lawyer who defends gay clients. She said:
Every day I hear about extortion here and there ... at any given time they can be subjected to arrest or blackmail - even when the law does not provide the police with the power to do so.Asked by IPSNews "How do your peers respond to your work?" Nkom said:
There is a criminal procedure code which is continuously violated when it comes to gay and lesbian people. The code does not provide the prosecutor the power to arraign somebody unless the person was caught in flagrante delicto (caught in the act).
A police officer does not have the right to come to your house or to bars to arrest you for homosexuality. But what happens is that people are just thought to be gay... (which) catches the attention of greedy police officers who are looking for someone to blackmail.
In one case, nine people were charged. The judge wanted them to go for forensic anal tests, which means that not only were they spending seven months in jail (pending the case) but the judge wanted to force them to undergo a humiliating test to show that they were actually gay. Medical doctors refused to carry out the tests.
He released two of the men for unknown reasons. The remaining seven were sentenced to seven months in jail and then released for time served. In all, they spent 12 months and 12 days in jail. How did the judge manage to find them homosexual, given that he did not get the proof he was looking for? They were found guilty on the basis of personal beliefs.
In another case two people (tried to steal from someone at whose house they were staying). He called the police. The two thieves got the idea to say the complainant wanted to sleep with them. It turned into a "gay case". The prosecutor charged all three with homosexuality and they were sentenced to six months.
Many of them are very homophobic. Others are indifferent. I receive little support.In April this year an Australian and two Cameroonians were arrested for homosexuality in the lobby of an international hotel in the capital, Douala, after being 'denounced' and only freed thanks to the efforts of Nkom.