Disturbing news from the central African nation of Cameroon, where gay men are routinely and randomly arrested and subjected to legal ordeals that continue for years. 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". Those two and an additional man have received the maximum prison sentence, reports AFP.
The Ekounou court sentenced the three on Tuesday to five years imprisonment and a fine, the heaviest sentence provided by Cameroonian law, which bans homosexuality, Michel Togue told AFP. Two of the convicted men were present for the ruling but the third was sentenced in absentia, said Togue, who added he had appealed the decision.
"It's a bad ruling because it is a blatant violation of the law," the lawyer said, citing procedural technicalities when the guilty verdict was handed down. He also accused the judge of peppering the hearing with homophobic innuendos.
"The three were allegedly caught in the act in a vehicle in July. "It's a shocking and unacceptable decision," said Alice Nkom, president of the pro-gay advocacy group Adefho. "It is not worthy of a country that speaks of human rights."
The young men were reportedly beaten and tortured in jail.
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 preparing to toughen its already harsh penalties against homosexuality by equating them with pedophilia.
Nkom said last week the situation has become "more dangerous" with a rise in illegal arrests and torture.
Cameroon is one of at least 38 of Africa's 54 nations that currently have laws penalizing same-sex relations or even sexuality. Three of the nations—Mauritania, Nigeria and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity.
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