Thousands demand Cameroon drop criminal charges for gay text message
Tens of thousands call upon on Cameroon President Biya to reverse conviction of Roger Jean-Claude MbÃ©dÃ© who was sentenced to 3 years in jail for sending a gay text
Over 57,000 people have signed a petition asking the Cameroon President and Minister of Justice to reverse the decision to jail Roger for 3 years and to put a moratorium on the laws that sent him to jail in the first place.
Mbédé was arrested last year for sending a text message that said, ‘I am very much in love with you’ to another man.
Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code which states that ‘Whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years and with a fine ranging from 20,000 Francs CFA ($40 â‚¬30) to 200,000 Francs CFA ($400 â‚¬300)’.
He was charged and convicted of ‘homosexuality and attempted homosexuality’ on 9 March 2011, sentenced to three years in prison. Mbédé spent more than a year in jail, while being subjected to abuse in custody.
He is now appealing his conviction; the court hearing is scheduled for Monday, 17 September.
‘I found myself in handcuffs being treated like a criminal. I spent a week after I was arrested being tortured and insulted every day,’ explained Mbédé.
‘Now, my family says I’m dangerous and they can not live with a homosexual. Cameroonians know who I am now. I don’t know how I will even be able to go back to school and get a job.’
Alice N’kom, a Cameroonian attorney renowned for her support LGBT rights in Cameroon stated: ‘We’re seeing more and more young people, like Roger, whose lives are destroyed because they’re accused of the “crime” of homosexuality.
‘Because Roger’s decided not to hide who he is, he’s faced extreme violence and even death threats.
‘These homophobic laws must be repealed, as soon as possible.’
Life remains difficult for anyone even suspected of being gay in Cameroon. At least 20 Cameroonians have been arrested in the last year on suspicions that they are gay or lesbian.
Last month, an anti-gay group in Yaoundé held a march celebrating homophobia.
At around the same time the Archbishop of Yaoundé stated that homosexuality is ‘shameful’ and ‘an affront to the family, enemy of women and creation.’
The prevalent anti-gay attitudes in Cameroon are reinforced by the stigma of homosexuality being a crime, creating additional abuse and barriers in people’s day-to-day lives.
Despite the challenges, there is a growing movement within Cameroon and in many other African nations rejecting the notion that homosexuality is un-African.
Last month, human rights leaders from more than 8 countries in Africa, including Cameroon, signed a declaration to President Paul Biya, asking him to put an end to the anti-gay crackdown in his country and to bring an end to laws criminalizing homosexuality.
Attorney N’Kom stated: ‘This is the right moment for us to call on President Biya to stand up for equality, discharge Roger, and revoke anti-gay laws in Cameroon.’
AllOut, the international LGBT campaign group, organised a petition calling upon Cameroon’s President Biya to reverse decision to convict Roger immediately and repeal the law criminalizing homosexuality.
AllOut.org’s Executive Director, Andre Banks, sad: ‘A case like Roger’s makes it crystal clear how much harm these anti-gay laws can cause.
‘If someone like Roger can be tossed in jail for sending a text message to another man, how can gay and lesbian Cameroonians fight for their basic human rights without fear of attacks or prison?
‘Cameroon’s leaders need to start now and start with Roger, to end this shameful abuse.’
The petition can be found here.