Roger Jean-Claude Mbede
Cameroonian Roger Jean Claude Mbede survived brutal imprisonment and torture for being gay but he couldn’t survive his family’s cruel condemnation.
On Friday, the 34-year-old passed away after his family took him out of hospital, where he was being treated for a hernia, apparently because they believed he’d be better off dead than be gay.
Human rights lawyer Alice Nkom told AP: “His family said he was a curse for them and that we should let him die.”
Mbede was named a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International when he was arrested in 2011 because he sent an SMS to another man that read: “I’m very much in love with you”.
He was sentenced to three years in prison where he reported being tortured and where he suffered ill health, including developing a hernia.
“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,” he told Irin News.
In July 2012, after over a year in prison, Mbede was released due to medical reasons. He said that because of his very public trial and conviction he was forced to drop his university studies and was unable to find a job.
“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.
“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,” he said.
Mbede never got the chance to be given asylum. After being taken out of hospital he languished for a month without any medical care before succumbing to his illness.
“His family said they were going to remove the homosexuality which is in him,” Cameroonian activist Lambert Lamba told AP. “I went to see him in his village. He could not stand up, he couldn’t speak.”
Nkom said that she blamed the state for Mbede’s death: “If there had not been criminalisation of homosexuality, he would not have gone to prison and his life would not be over. His life was finished as soon as he went to prison.”
A report last year by Human Rights Watch and local groups found that at least 28 people had been prosecuted for same-sex conduct in Cameroon since 2010; said to make it among the top countries that most prosecute LGBT people.
Same-sex sexual acts are illegal in Cameroon under section 347 of the penal code with a penalty of up to five years imprisonment.