Saturday, 27 August 2011

In Cameroon, proposed law change equates homosexuality with pedophilia

Me Alice NkomAlice Nkom Image via Wikipedia
By Paul Canning

A revision to Cameroon's criminal code will equate homosexuality with pedophilia, according to activists.

Two proposed new by-laws punish homosexual acts on minors between 16 and 21 years of age to eight years in jail with 10-15 year terms available for acts committed on minors younger than 16, activist Stéphane Koche told AFP.

The new law thus equates acts committed on both age groups as paedophilia, Koche said.

The proposed law change "will allow judges to condemn more people more easily," Alice Nkom, lawyer and president of ADEFHO (Association pour la Défense des Homosexuels, Association for the Defense of Homosexuals) said.

Homosexual acts in general remain punishable by between six months to five years imprisonment in the new criminal code, Koche said.

In an interview with Jeaune Afrique [text via Google translate] Nkom said that the situation for LGBT in Cameroon has got worse over the past ten years:
"Homosexuals lived much better before than now. 10 years ago they arrested fewer people for their homosexuality. This is the result of a combination of two situations: the Catholic Church in a homily in 2005 accused homosexuals of being the cause of moral depravity and of youth unemployment. Subsequently, almost all the newspapers at that time have included this message."

"Some have gone further by publishing (in 2006) a list of homosexuals with their names and their functions. This has created drama in the family. Children suffered the evil of their classmates at school, it was terrible."

"In a country where things are done normally, one would have expected the intervention of the Head of State, to a circular addressed to the prosecutors, judicial police officers, about this savage repression, so they stop. But nothing was done, homosexuals are still treated as abominable."
Nkom and others defending LGBT have come under sustained attack, including threats by state officials of possible arrest and with violence from segments of civil society.

Roger Jean Claude Mbede was arrested and sentenced in March to 36 months of prison after sending an text message in which he declared his love to a friend he had met on the internet. Amnesty International is running an international campaign demanding his release.

LGBT rights group Alternatives-Cameroun recently saw him in Yaoundé Central Prison (Kondengui). They said:
"We found Mr. Mbede in a state of moral health and nutritional deplorable. Suffering at the time  with his  left eye and without treatment or medications. He told us he slept on the ground since his imprisonment, and abandoned  by most of his family members who regard  him as a wizard."
The 2011 US State Department report on human rights in Cameroon says that individuals incarcerated in Douala's New Bell Prison for homosexual acts suffered discrimination and violence from other inmates. A report by IGLHRC last year said that police and prison officers routinely abuse detainees they suspect of same-sex sexual relationships.

Today, four men were arrested in what a lawyer described to AFP as "obviously a set up."

This month two young gay men arrested, according to Nkom, because they were effeminate "confessed" to homosexuality after being tortured

In June a violent attack on a suspected gay couple was reported.

In late January, a young gay man, Serges T., was nearly burned alive by a mob in Douala .

Despite this situation Nkom spoke hopefully with Jeaune Afrique about change:
"Cameroon does not want to occupy a prominent place in the international community and not respect all the conventions that enshrine the rights of man. The country adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a preamble to its constitution. It is provided for in Article 45 that the international conventions and treaties signed and ratified are above the law. Cameroon is a member of the United Nations but does not respect the values ​​promoted by the organization including respect for human rights.

"A [LGBT human rights] resolution was passed at the UN in June. It now sees minority rights as part of human rights. While Cameroon had voted against the majority, the resolution was adopted. It will be obliged to submit one day and legalise homosexuality. You can not swim against the current."
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