Roger Jean Claude Mbede
Cameroon is among the world’s most hostile countries to homosexuality, rights groups say.
Homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison, as well as fines.
In the past three years, the country has prosecuted at least 28 people for homosexuality, according to Human Rights Watch.
Roger Jean Claude Mbede, 34, was sentenced to three years in prison for sending an SMS to another man saying, “I’m in love with you.”
“One day in 2011, after going out with friends, I sent an SMS to one of them to express my feelings, but this landed me in jail on charges of homosexuality.
“From the time of my arrest in Yaoundé, I was subjected to torture from the law enforcement officers. They coerced me to disclose information on my past relationships and my sex life. The gendarme officers kept smacking me, tore my shirt and treated me like a bandit.
“And during my prosecution, the judge kept shouting insults at me. I had no lawyer at the time. On 28 April 2011, I was convicted and given two-year prison term.
“While in jail, I suffered continuous abuse from inmates and prison guards. Many times, I went without basic necessities, such as food and water, because the prison officials refused to serve me like the others.
“Thanks to [a] human right defender and lawyer. I started receiving legal representation after some months in prison. This was due to the fact that my health was deteriorating from the ill treatment I was undergoing in prison. I lost close to 15kg, regularly suffered malaria fever and other complications. The lawyer filed a motion for my release on grounds of my health. The motion was granted on July 16, 2012, and I was provisionally released.
“But after my release, the bad publicity about me made me leave my university studies because I was scared of the threats and insults from fellow students and neighbours.
“Since then, my life has not been the same, and this was worsened by the recent killings of homosexuals and public threats made to anyone suspected to be gay or [gay] rights defenders.
“I can’t find a job where people know me. This has made me live in isolation, like many other gays in Cameroon. We have very few people as friends, and it is even a dreadful thing to meet with someone in your similar situation because any gay [meeting place] is a target today.
“My livelihood has mostly been supported by civil society organizations and human rights defenders. But I could start running a blog to defend and promote the rights of LGBT in Cameroon and beyond.
“Due to the tense environment in Cameroon, I am thinking of seeking asylum to any country where my sexual preference will not cause me many problems.
“But it is not an easy decision to make. I miss my friends and family despite their opinion about me.
“The government doesn’t protect suspected gay people from the gruesome killings and threats that many have gone through in Cameroon.
“If every citizen had equal human rights and freedom in Cameroon, carrying condoms and lubricant wouldn’t be a crime, dressing like women and drinking sweet whisky wouldn’t be an offense, and nobody would be arrested for arranging to meet with another man in a hotel lobby.”