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'Anti-homosexuals apartheid' in Cameroon says pro-gay lawyer

Alice Nkom, a Cameroonian lawyer who has defended gay men and women for the last decade, says the country is battling an ‘anti-homosexuals apartheid’, comparing the situation to slavery
Pro-gay lawyer Alice Nkom has said Cameroon is battling an 'anti-homosexuals apartheid'

Alice Nkom, a pro-gay lawyer from Cameroon has spoken out about the treatment of gay people in her country, calling it an ‘anti-homosexuals apartheid’.

She also likened the situation to that of slavery in the United States before it was abolished in the nineteenth century.

Nkom, who has defended gay men men and women for more than a decade, said: ‘Currently in Cameroon, it’s an anti-homosexuals apartheid.’

‘When a country uses weapons, the police and all available legal and prison means against a section of it’s population, while it has a commitment to protect,’ it is apartheid, she told AFP.

Male and female homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon and carries a maximum five year prison sentence and a fine.

Speaking of daily life for gay Cameroonians, she said progress is being made but there is still an atmosphere of fear: ‘You have to live in complete secrecy, you have to watch the smallest of gestures because that begins at home.

‘If your mother is very pious… for her, homosexuality is appalling, that’s that they’ve put in her head. And she begins by no longer recognizing you as her child.’

The 69 year old set up the Association for the Defence of Homosexuality in 2003 to provide both medical and psychological support for gays and lesbians.

In recognition of her work, she is set to receive a human rights prize from the German branch of Amnesty International on Tuesday in Berlin.

Speaking of the situation as ‘a human rights problem’, Nkom said: ‘Every time a homosexual is negatively affected, it’s a negative effect on all of humanity.’

She also argued against the idea that homophobia is a predominantly African problem, pointing towards South Africa, whose constitution has protected people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation since 2000.

Encouraging Western countries to continue challenging homophobia in African countries, Nkom said: ‘Europeans are wrong to get intimidated when Africans say to them “don’t interfere” or “it’s you who brought us [homosexuality]”.’

Singling out Uganda as an example, where President Museveni recently passed a bill that imposes life imprisonment for ‘repeat homosexuals’, she urged the West: ‘You cannot let him carry out such a barbarity on a section of his people without saying anything.’

Nkom called for sanctions against Museveni and his family, such as a visa ban for foreign travel.

Cameroonian gay man Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, who Nkom had been defending, died earlier this year after being removed from hospital by his family, despite needing treatment for a hernia.

Amnesty International had declared Mbédé a prisoner of conscience following his incarceration in 2011 for sending a text message to another man saying ‘I’m very much in love with you’.

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