Cameroon: The Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Cameroon

Shadow Report


The Republic of Cameroon, a unitary republic and member of the African Union, acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights1 (ICCPR) on 27 June 1984 without reservations. On 25 November 2008, Cameroon submitted its fourth periodic review to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for evaluation.2 Though Cameroon, through its accession to the ICCPR, agreed to meet all obligations, it actively discriminates against people on grounds of sexual orientation and a gender identity particularly by outlawing sexual relations between people of the same sex. The ICCPR explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sex. In the landmark case of Toonen v. Australia,3 it was asserted that the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is included in the references to sex within the ICCPR. Therefore, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of Articles 2(1) and 26 (non-discrimination) of the ICCPR. State actors in Cameroon, however, seek out, violate the privacy of and arrest men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with women (WSW). After arrests take place, these individuals often face lengthy and illegal imprisonment and degrading treatment. Not only is this tolerated by the government, but the active rhetoric within political institutions and society views these violations of ICCPR as moral and necessary. This shadow report on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Cameroon was a collaborative effort of Global Rights, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria and Alternatives Cameroun.

Executive Summary

In violation of its obligations under the ICCPR, Cameroon has maintained legal provisions that criminalize same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults. In Toonen v. Australia,4 it was determined that the prohibition of discrimination based on sex included sexual orientation. The Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon forbids discrimination on the grounds of sex; also Article 45 states that international treaties supersede Cameroonian domestic law, yet the discriminatory ban on same-sex sexual conduct is enforced. The ban has led to discrimination, stigmatization and other serious human rights violations on the grounds of real or perceived sexual orientation.

Using article 347a of the Cameroonian Criminal Code that outlaws same-sex sexual conduct, individuals are commonly arrested without evidence because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. After these arrests, many are held for lengthy time periods and even subjected to multiple trials in violation of the Cameroonian Criminal Procedure Code and subsequently the ICCPR. While in custody, detainees undergo degrading treatment such as anal examinations with no medical validity.

The stigmatization that results from the discriminatory ban on same-sex sexual conduct also creates inequity in access to HIV/AIDS treatment. A man who was detained by Cameroonian authorities for nearly a year and was subjected to two trials after the prosecution refused to sign a release order when he was acquitted, died shortly after being released from custody from HIV complications that resulted from his lack of access to medication during his detention.

Many individuals are physically abused while in custody. Cases of discrimination involving minors within the education system have also been reported. Even after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemned the nation’s law regarding samesex sexual relations and sexual orientation, Cameroon defended its law and actions. Cameroon has failed to meet its obligations under ICCPR.

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  1. U.N. General Assembly, G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316
    (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force 23 March, 1976.
  2. CCPR/C/CMR/4.
  3. Communication no. 488/1992.
  4. Communication no. 488/1992.