This submission, by Affirmative Action, Alternatives-Cameroun, the Association for the Defense of Gay and Lesbian Rights (ADEFHO), Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Evolve, Human Rights Watch, Humanity First Cameroon, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), highlights shortcomings in Cameroon's human rights record related to its treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It is based on research conducted in Cameroon in 2009 and 2010 by ADEFHO, Alternatives-Cameroun, Human Rights Watch, and IGLHRC and published in our 2010 report Criminalizing Identities: Rights Abuses in Cameroon based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and on follow-up investigations conducted between 2010 and 2012.
Cameroon is one of a handful of countries that regularly prosecutes individuals for consensual same-sex conduct. Article 347 bis of the Cameroon Penal Code punishes "sexual relations with a person of the same sex" with a prison term of six months to five years and with a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs (US $40 to $400). There are currently at least two people in prison in Cameron who have been convicted of consensual same-sex conduct and at least three people in prison awaiting trial on the same charges. Others have been released on bail but have ongoing cases against them.
Human rights violations targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Cameroon extend beyond the threat of criminal prosecution. Police abuse against LGBT people is rife, with documented cases of police beatings that rise to the level of torture. LGBT people are also vulnerable to violence by community members. In such cases, they are often unable to seek justice due to fear of being treated as criminals themselves.
Organizations supporting LGBT rights in Cameroon are at risk. In February 2012, police in Douala arrested a young man, accused him of homosexuality, and made him denounce the organization Alternatives-Cameroun on television in exchange for his release, forcing the organization to suspend its activities due to hostility from the public. In March 2012, authorities in Yaounde illegally shut down a workshop on the rights of sexual and gender minorities, in violation of the rights to freedom of association and expression. Several months later, also in Yaounde, a mob violently attacked a gathering in celebration of the International Day against Homophobia, organized by groups that provide services to LGBT people.
Cameroon has taken insufficient measures to uphold the right to health for LGBT people. Although its National Strategic Framework on HIV, AIDS, and STIs recognizes the need to reach key populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM), Cameroon does not currently have HIV programs targeting their particular needs. Further, the existence of the law perpetuates stigma and drives LGBT people underground, making them less likely to seek out treatment and prevention services.
Alternatives-Cameroun petitioned the National Assembly for decriminalization in November 2009, but the National Assembly has not even considered introducing the topic into discussion. During the previous UPR in 2008, Cameroon rejected a number of recommendations to amend the Penal Code with the view to decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct. However, such recommendations should be reiterated in the context of the 2012 UPR given that Cameroon's unwillingness to eliminate homosexual acts from its Penal Code contradicts its own domestic law, which mandates that "provisions of criminal law shall be subject to the rules of international law and to all treaties duly promulgated and published." Moreover, additional steps should be recommended to the government of Cameroon to improve the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the country.
Published on October 12, 2012 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization