The country where 'looking gay' and drinking Bailey's Irish Cream can get you jailed

If you’ve ever been wronged, the first thing you’ll probably want to seek is justice.

In fact the law courts and the criminal justice system as a whole are generally seen as the last great bastions of the rule of law in any society. So when this system is used as a weapon to attack you, rather than defend and protect you, well where do you go from there?  

That’s the devastating situation in which the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community find themselves in Cameroon, according to a new Amnesty International report published today (PDF).

Being gay is still a crime in Cameroon. Section 347 of the Cameroonian Penal Code makes it an offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 350 US dollars – a hefty penalty by anyone’s standards in this West African country.

Since the mid-2000s, Amnesty’s found that there’s been a definite increase in the number of routine arrests, detentions and torture of people because of their sexual orientation. 

When in custody people suspected of being gay are forced to undergo anal examinations because the authorities mistakenly believe that in doing so they “prove whether or not people are engaging in same-sex relations.”
Earlier this month, an appeals court overturned the conviction of two men who were jailed for “looking gay” because they wore women’s clothes. Jonas Kimie and Franky Ndome spent more than a year in prison before their conviction was overturned. Some media outlets report that the fact that they ‘drank Bailey’s Irish Cream’ was suggestion enough that they were gay…

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was arrested in March 2011 after sending a text to a man saying that he was in love with him.  He’s still in prison today as his three-year sentence was upheld in December 2012. 

In the past decade, politicians and other public leaders have pandered to public prejudices through statements linking homosexuality to neo-colonialism and child abuse.  And perhaps worse – Cameroon’s own human rights commission refuses to recognise that the Section 347 is discriminatory.  Clearly life is horrid if you’re gay in Cameroon. Amnesty is working with several other organisations to combat this discrimination and persecution of LGBTI people in Cameroon. 

Amnesty’s report also highlights a host of other abuses going on in Cameroon including horrendous prison conditions, and the persecution of human rights defenders and political opponents.

Meanwhile, for more information about our work on gay rights across Africa and elsewhere visit www.amnesty.org.uk/lgbt

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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