LGBTI Persons’ Rights in Cameroon

Anti-Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Challenge

Cameroon has one of the highest number of arrests and prosecution of LGBTI persons among countries that criminalize homosexual acts in Africa. Homosexual relationships are still considered a crime under Article 347 bis of the Penal Code in Cameroon and punishable by six months to five years in prison and a fine of 20.000 to 200.000 CFA.

Many acts have led to a difficult operational environment for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs): the wave of indictments of many homosexuals in 2005; regular arrests since 2010; and recent attacks against human rights defenders of LGBTI persons, including lawyers. Because of this CSOs operate in a climate of insecurity, hatred and impunity. Associations defending the rights of LGBTI persons are hardly identifiable outside of Yaoundé and Douala and for that reason it is difficult to obtain accurate information on violations of LGBTI persons’ rights.

However, since the beginning of 2011, ASF France and its partners have noticed an increase in the number of reported cases of harassment, marginalization, discrimination and abuse based on sexual orientation or gender identity, real or assumed, in Cameroon. Recurrent waves of attacks against human rights defenders in Cameroon who support sexual and gender minorities, show that it is particularly important that the country fulfils its obligation to protect all of its citizens. On 15th of July 2013, prominent Cameroonian gay rights activist and journalist Eric Lembembe was murdered in Yaoundé. His neck and feet appeared to have been broken, and his face, hands, and feet burned with an iron . This awful crime illustrates the climate of hatred and impunity in Cameroon. Powered by articles or official statements, homophobia is omnipresent.

Program Summary

In this, context ASF-France and its partners aim at bringing assistance and protection to LGBTI persons and their advocates and to strengthen their role and legitimacy in Cameroon.  ASF France uses a comprehensive approach that takes into account all the actors concerned by LGBTI persons’ rights – bringing  together lawyers, judges, police officers, prison officers, local media and CSOs.  One of the key expected results being an improvement in the dialogue between these entities and LGBTI rights issues.

On one hand, the project will ensure the defense of LGBTI persons and their lawyers who are threatened by providing legal assistance and technical support. In fact, the few lawyers who have agreed to defend LGBTI persons arrested under article 347 bis are often intimidated and constantly fear for their security.  On a second hand, the project will strengthen the legitimacy and visibility of local CSOs fighting against LGBTI discrimination by facilitating an effective networking between CSOs and interactions with local authorities. Finally, the project will improve the dialogue with the judicial authorities and prison services by providing appropriate trainings on LGBTI rights in order to change the homophobic feeling that is present in local courts. Actually, the lack of training and education of institutions that interact with LGBTI persons and their unawareness of the fundamental LGBTI persons’ rights, leads to numerous human rights violations on the part of these institutions and contributes to the perpetuation of impunity and violent discriminatory acts motivated by homophobia and transphobia.

The project will address these needs through the following activities:

(a) Legal Assistance and Emergency Defense of at least two LGBTI persons and their supporters that are threatened

(b) Training in advocacy techniques provided to the Cameroonian CSOs and local media

(c) Technical training on Human Rights, in particularly LGBTI’s rights, for members of the judiciary and prison services.

Impact

LGBTI persons threatened in Cameroon would be the primary beneficiaries of the project. However, other groups will be targeted by the different activities of the project:  lawyers and human rights defenders of LGBTI persons, institutions (and individuals representing them) that can interfere positively or negatively on the rights of LGBTI people (lawyers, magistrates, judges, police officers, journalists, prison staff and local CSOs).

This project will improve the fundamental rights situation in Cameroon, and in particular equal treatment and absence of discrimination, and the right to life in security for LGBTI people ( 4.1. and 4.2. of WJP index).  Following the worsening climate of intolerance and homophobia at all levels of the Cameroonian society, many LGBTI persons conceal in vulnerable and marginalized communities in order to avoid reprisal. Assuring an adequate physical and legal protection, LGBTI persons would be encouraged to go to the relevant authorities when human rights violations are committed to enforce their rights. Consequently, freedom of opinion and expression would be improved and arbitrary interference with privacy would be reduced (4.4 and 4.6.). By involving judicial and prison services, the project would change the current treatment of violations of LGBTI’s right to life and security as well as stop discriminatory practices that undermine LGBTI persons’ ability to access justice and effective legal remedy (8.4. and 4.3.).

Project Details

Program Status:Active

Program Type:Grantee

Region:Sub-Saharan Africa

Program Countries:Cameroon

Dates:June 1, 2014 - September 30, 2015

Rule of Law Index Factors: Fundamental Rights (Factor 4), Criminal Justice (Factor 8), and Informal Justice (Factor 9).

Issue Areas: Education, Human Rights, Judiciary, and Media.