US and EU speak out for LGBT rights in Cameroon
The US and EU have joined the international outcry at the crackdown on LGBT people living in Cameroon.
On Friday 19 October, a Cameroon court is scheduled to issue a decision in the case of Francky and Jonas, who were convicted and sentenced to five years in prison after a judge thought their clothes, speech and the drinks they liked were ‘gay.’ AllOut.org is calling on Cameroon President Biya and other officials to free those imprisoned under the anti-gay law in the country.
US Ambassador to Cameroon, H.E. Mr Robert P. Jackson said, ‘[Gays and lesbians] are human beings, and I refer to this issue because it is a human rights issue. Cameroon is the only CEMAC country that outlaws homosexual acts. Last year, a Cameroonian court sentenced two young men to five years in prison for “being homosexual” – even though Cameroonian law does not say that homosexuality is illegal. The court relied on subjective assumptions that would not pass as evidence in most courts of law. They were found guilty not because of what they did, but because of how they dressed.’
‘In another case, a young man was sentenced for having sent a sexually suggestive text message. Where does the Criminal Code say that is a crime? Through judgments like these, which critics assert are not even in keeping with Cameroon’s own laws, Cameroon’s judiciary is defining the country’s image abroad.’
The EU is also calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Cameroon. A spokesperson for the Delegation from the European Union said: ‘The Delegation of the European Union to Cameroon is fully engaged in favour of the full respect of human rights in Cameroon, among others the decriminalization of homosexuality.’
AllOut.org Executive Director and Co-Founder Andre Banks released a statement saying: ‘The statements by the US Ambassador and the Delegation from the European Union in Cameroon send a direct message to President Biya and other Cameroonian officials who support the on-going persecution of people who seem ‘too gay’… This week, Cameroon has an opportunity to affirm its commitment to human rights by speaking out against discriminatory, anti-gay laws and finally freeing Francky and Jonas.’
Francky and Jonas were given the highest possible sentence because their vocabulary was deemed to be ‘feminine’, and they drank a beverage (Baileys) which was assumed to be something that ‘only gay men drink.’ The men were also told that the clothes they were wearing weren’t ‘masculine enough.’ Their attorney Michel ToguÃ© commented: ‘Our country is throwing innocent people in jail just for being different and it needs to stop.’
Last month, more than 100,000 people signed an AllOut.org petition asking Cameroon President Paul Biya and Minister of Justice Laurent Esso to reverse the decision to jail Roger Jean-Claude Mbede for three years, for sending a text message to another man that said: ‘I’m very much in love with you.’ He is currently out on bail whilst he awaits his appeal on November 19 2012. The petition also called for an end to the laws that sent Roger, Francky, and Jonas to jail in the first place.