Two Cameroonian men who were jailed for homosexual acts in 2011 on the basis of what they wore and drank have been acquitted.
The men, Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome, were part of a trio arrested on the night of 25 July 2011.
They were returning by car from a bar when they were stopped by police officers in YaoundÃ©.
The police at first assumed that Kumie and Djome were women because of their feminine appearance.
However, upon checking their identification documents, in which they were identified as male, the police arrested all three men.
They were held illegally without being charged for seven day before charges were finally laid against them. Kumie and Djome have claimed that they were tortured and harassed by police.
The other unidentified man was reportedly not beaten or harassed and, for reasons that are unclear, was released.
Kumie and Djome were then sentenced to five years in prison by a judge, primarily on the basis of what they wore, how they behaved and because they drank Bailey’s Irish Cream, which he believed proved that they were gay.
On Monday, an appeals court reversed the conviction because, according to their lawyer Alice Nkom, the original judge had ruled against them on the basis of “stereotypes”.
Nkom, who is also a leading LGBT rights activist, told the BBC that, “They were doing nothing when they were arrested by police. Just because they were wearing women’s clothes and had make-up the police said this must be a network of homosexuals and put them in jail.”
She expected the men to be freed on Tuesday. Nkom has received death threats against her and her children because of her representing clients accused of homosexuality.
Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Cameroon with penalties including imprisonment of up to five years. According to Amnesty International, homophobia is endemic in Cameroonian society, and arrests, prosecutions and trials of gay men occur on a regular basis.
In December, an appeals court in Cameroon upheld university student Roger Jean-Claude Mbede’s three year prison sentence for homosexuality because he sent another man a romantic SMS.