Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Friday that it was “deeply concerned” about the plight of LGBT people in Cameroon.

At a press briefing in Geneva, the OHCHR’s Rupert Colville discussed ongoing reports from Cameroon of the harassment, intimidation, arrest and imprisonment of individuals on suspicion of being lesbian or gay.

The current Cameroonian penal code criminalises “sexual relations with a person of the same sex” and provides for a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a fine.

Colville said that the law is in breach of Cameroon’s international human rights commitments and violates rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination.

While the penal code relates specifically to sexual conduct, the OHCHR was seriously concerned that it was being applied in a broad-brush way to prosecute individuals on the basis of their appearance, their mannerisms, style of speech or general conduct.

“In 2011, for example, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé was convicted of suspected homosexual conduct after the authorities discovered he had sent a text message to another man that read ‘I am very much in love with you’,” Colville explained.

“Last month, Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome were convicted on the basis of evidence of their appearance, which was perceived as effeminate, and the fact that they had been seen drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream. All three have an appeal hearing next week,” he said.

Colville added that it is especially worrying to receive reports of anonymous threats being made against human rights activists working to protect the rights of LGBT people.

He urged the Government of Cameroon to fulfil its duty to end these abuses, to provide adequate protection to activists and to end the criminalisation of homosexuality.

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