More news from Cameroon, where gay men are routinely and randomly arrested and subjected to legal ordeals that continue for years. The government is preparing to toughen its already harsh sodomy penalties by equating same-sex relations with pedophilia
"These laws are illegal – the declaration of human rights is part of our constitution – but the judges still apply them. It's very difficult to prove you have had sex. Under the procedural code you cannot be put in jail unless caught in delecto flagrante.
"But they always put people accused of homosexuality in jail straight away. People are targeted because they wear makeup or looked effeminate. One client was given a three-year sentence because he wrote a text message. It's a very corrupt environment and people get paid for informing on others."
No one knows the true numbers. Punishment for those found guilty is a sentence of between six months and five years as well as fines. Detainees are sometimes tortured in police stations until they confess, Nkom maintains; victims are beaten on the soles of their feet.
Scores of people are imprisoned every year in Cameroon under the regulations. Conditions inside are miserable. The main jail in the capital, Yaounde, was built for 600 but now contains 4,000 inmates. "Unless you buy food from the guards," she said, "you starve. For those whose are homosexual their life is made worse."
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.
Nkom, who successfully freed more than a dozen imprisoned gay men and founded the Association to Defend Homosexuals (ADEFHO), 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.
In other news: Cameroon President Paul Biya has been sworn in for a sixth term after "winning" last month's election by a landslide. The 78-year-old Biya has held the position for the last 29 years.
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