(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
The country adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a preamble to its Constitution. It is provided for in Art. 45 that the international conventions and treaties signed and ratified are above the law. Cameroon is a member of the UN; however it does not appear to respect the values of such treaties.
The Penal Code, Section 347a: “Any person who has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of between 20,000-200,000 francs.” (Refworld)
This article was entered into law by presidential decree in 1972 without the usual review by the National Assembly so some, such as Alice Nkom have argued that it is unconstitutional. (The Status of LGBT Rights in Cameroon)
Two proposed by-laws punish homosexual acts with minors between 16 and 21 years of age to eight years in jail with 10-15 year terms available for acts committed on minors younger than 16. The new law therefore can be considered as equating acts committed on both age groups as pedophilia. (ILGA)
Same-sex sexual relations, as well as other “indecent” conducts are criminalized by the Cameroonian Penal Code under the chapter of “Felonies and Misdemeanors against Private Interest.” Article 295 criminalizes “private indecency,” Article 346 condemns “indecency to child under sixteen,” Article 346 criminalizes “indecency to minor between sixteen and twenty-one;” and Article 347 condemns “sex with the person of the same sex.” (The Status of LGBT Rights in Cameroon)
Atanasov v. Refugee Appeals Tribunal; Opesyitan and Others v. Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Others; Fontu v. Refugee Appeals Tribunal and Others,  IESC 53, Ireland: Supreme Court, 26 July 2006, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/45ebd4012.html [accessed 19 November 2011]
Etame v. Secretary of State for the Home Department; Anirah v. Secretary of State for the Home Department,  EWHC 1140 (Admin), United Kingdom: High Court (England and Wales), 23 May 2008, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/483e66932.html [accessed 19 November 2011]
HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department,  UKSC 31, United Kingdom: Supreme Court, 7 July 2010, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4c3456752.html [accessed 19 November 2011]
It has been reported that there has been the first case of three lesbian women being charged with homosexuality in Cameroon. While it is not unheard of for homosexual men to be charged with homosexuality (4 men were charged in 2011), there has never before been a case brought against women (BBC News).
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
Discrimination and harassment are omnipresent threats for LGBTI Cameroonians. They are at risk of imprisonment and extortion by law enforcement officials. Some gay men have even been entrapped by neighbors or acquaintances conspiring to report them, which creates a climate of distrust and fear. Many LGBTI Cameroonians believe the only way to protect themselves is to hide their sexuality especially since the 2005 arrests when the media began to portray being gay or lesbian as a menace to public safety. According to Amnesty, “homophobia is endemic in Cameroonian society” and the arrests, prosecutions and trials of gay men occur on a regular basis. When LGBTI people are the victims of any sort of crime, they may fear reporting it because they could be accused and prosecuted for homosexuality instead of protected as victims.
“Newspapers have published a flurry of viciously anti-gay articles about government officials, outing people purported to be gay by publishing their names and calling them the “faggots of the Republic,” and inventing a word to describe Cameroon, as a “homocraty,” where they allege rich, corrupt, power-hungry homosexuals are attempting to take over the state.” (Criminalizing Identities)
Surprisingly, there have been “no reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, access to health care or education.” (United States Department of State (11 March 2010) 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Cameroon)
According to Erwin van der Borght,** (Amnesty Africa Program Director), Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal code was drawn up forty years ago but hasn’t been consistently enforced over the years. There was a spike in arrests in 2005-6 and yet again in 2010. Until five years ago there was little information available on the enforcement of section 347a, but on May 21, 2005 police arrested 32 people at a nightclub, which was the first of many high-profile arrests and prosecutions that continue to the present.
According to the report Criminalizing Identities, judges may convict and sentence those arrested under Article 247a without any evidence that they have ever engaged in a homosexual act. Even lawyers have been said to charge people again before they can leave custody so that they must stay in detention until a second hearing occurs. Police often make arrests on very little evidence of homosexuality and no evidence of same-sex sex. There have been allegations of arrests without warrants and detention in prison without charge despite the implementation of The Code of Penal Procedure in June 2007. It states that police can only search and seize if they have obtained a warrant. They only exception is when a misdemeanor, such as homosexual conduct is “in the course of being committed… [has] just been committed.” There have been reports of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of other prisoners and prison guards. Prison authorities ignored all letters of complaint from prisoners. Human Rights researchers in Cameroon and government officials themselves say that in general, there is no mechanism for holding police and prison officials accountable for the abuses they commit.
These men now face a further invasion of their physical privacy in the form of forced anal examinations, which is not a scientifically proven method to ascertain penetration. (HRW, 30 Nov 2005)
Boys under the age of 18 arrested under Art.347a have been placed in cells with adult male prisoners because prison guards say that if the boys share a cell with other minors they will teach them to be homosexuals.
The UN Human Rights Council recommended that same-sex sexual conduct be decriminalized during Cameroon’s Periodic Review (UPR) in 2008, but Cameroon did not accept this recommendation.
The Cameroonian government has not attempted to ensure equal access to HIV prevention treatment and care services for LGBTI individuals, even though research has proven that men who have sex with men are five to twenty times more vulnerable than the general population in middle to low-income countries such as Cameroon. Prison authorities refuse to distribute condoms in prisons because they believe that it encourages homosexual acts amongst prisoners, and they refuse to acknowledge that it is already an everyday occurrence.
Alternatives-Cameroun and ADEFHO have observed that enforcing the criminal laws against homosexual conduct in Cameroon has had a negative impact on the HIV/AIDS prevention and outreach strategies they implement. (Criminalizing Identities)
1) Interviews for the report suggested that there are fewer women than men arrested and jailed for LGBTI offences, yet women who do not dress in typically feminine attire, or who engage in conduct considered unfeminine, are often victims of persecution. Women who are suspected of having sex with women can be targeted for rape and sexual attacks. They can lose custody of their children and are unlikely to be able to recover them for fear of arrest and jail. Like men, they can be rejected by their families or be physically abused at the hands of family members, which is especially difficult in a society where women dependent on their family to protect them.
2) Women are more likely to be punished for same-sex relationships within the family rather than publicly.
In 1998, Cameroon created the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to improve the status of women. In 2004, the ministry changed its name to the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Family. Yet the ministry has not recognized that its protection mandate should include lesbian and bisexual girls, despite the fact that they are some of the most vulnerable.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
Access Centre. 2178, Boulevard de la Liberté, P.O.Box 12 767, Douala, Cameroon
Email: alternatives [dot] cameroungmail [dot] com
Alternatives-Cameroun is an organization working for equality, tolerance, and respect for people who suffer from social exclusion. Alternatives-Cameroun was founded by young Cameroonian professionals fighting for human rights in Cameroon, especially for the rights of people who have sexual relations with people of the same sex.
C/O Centre LGBT Paris Ile-de-France
63 rue Beaubourg
, 75003 PARIS
Tel: +33 (0)6 19 64 03 91
Email: contactardhis [dot] org
ADEFHO - Association for the Defense of Homosexuals
Rue Kitchener Bonanjo, P.O. Box 59, Douala, Cameroon
Tel: +237 3421763 ,+237 3424998 ,+2379903193 ,+237 3002536
ADEFHO’s goal is to have the rights of homosexuals to be respected, through the decriminalization of homosexuality. Their other objectives are to educate the public about questions related to homosexuality, notably of tolerance and understanding for homosexuals, the fight against discrimination and stigmatization of homosexuals in schools, hospitals and other public places.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
We have no specialist on LGBTI for Cameroon, but would welcome suggestions.
Researched by: Rhiannon Archer
Email: rhi [dot] archergmail [dot] com