Authorities must end anti-LGBT persecution and repeal laws that criminalize consensual same-sex relations, five human rights organizations said today in an open letter to Cameroon's President Paul Biya.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joined the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), L’Association pour la Défense des Droits des Homosexuel(le)s (ADEFHO) and Alternatives Cameroun in urging the government to release all individuals detained under the discriminatory law.
"This use of criminal law to punish private sexual activity between consenting adults contravenes international human rights laws that Cameroon has signed and ratified," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
"“We are receiving an increasing number of reports that individuals are being targeted not only because of their sexual behaviour, which is the subject of these discriminatory laws, but because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This use of criminal law to punish identities, as well as behaviours, is deeply concerning,” he added.
"The organizations also ask that the government take steps to ensure the end of detentions, arrests and harassment of individuals on the grounds of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In the last six months, at least ten individuals in Yaoundé and Douala have been arrested under the law.
The central African nation boasts one of Africa's more repressive anti-LGBT regimes. In recent months, there has been an increase in arrests and prosecutions under section 347a of its penal code, which criminalizes same-sex sexual acts. The government is reportedly preparing to toughen its already harsh penalties against homosexuality by equating them with pedophilia.
Since late July, a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old have been in custody. Reports suggest the youths were arrested because they appeared "feminine". The young men were beaten and tortured and charged under Section 347a. They were represented by noted attorney and human rights activist Alice Nkom.
The open letter comes at the same time All Out is conducting an online petition to President Biya to support the work of Nkom, who has successfully freed more than a dozen imprisoned gay men and founded the Association to Defend Homosexuals (ADEFHO). Nkom was threatened with arrest earlier this year. In 2007 she discovered an imprisoned gay man who was held for two years without trial. He was later released.
Says Nkom: "I've heard countless recent stories of homophobic violence throughout the country. In ten years of defending LGBT people in Cameroon, it has never been this bad."
More than 53,000 people have signed the petition so far. Join HERE.
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