Amnesty International are renewing their pressure on Cameroon to abolish its anti-gay laws after publishing a report on human rights abuses.
It took several years of pressure before Amnesty got the green light to send investigators to Cameroon in 2010. The resulting collection of information was presented to Cameroonian officials in December before being released to the public as a report on Thursday.
Among human rights violations such as stifling the freedom of the press, failing to investigate crimes perpetrated by military police, and substandard prison conditions, Amnesty devotes a section of its report to discrimination and violence against LGBT Cameroonians.
“Violence, arbitrary arrests and detention and other forms of human rights violations targeting individuals because of their real or perceived sexual orientation are commonplace in Cameroon, and have been on the increase since the mid-2000s,” the report reads.
Same-sex sexual acts are illegal under Section 347 of the Cameroonian Penal Code. They are punishable by a prison sentence of up to 5 years and a fine of $350 (£221).
The report includes the case of two Cameroonian men who were arrested in July 2011 for “homosexual behaviour”, reportedly based on their clothing, speech, and consumption of Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur. They were subsequently given a 5-year prison sentence.
Amnesty says that the institutionalisation of homophobia means that LGBT Cameroonians are unwilling to seek police help if they are harassed or abused.
There is also open homophobia in the media, including cases of newspapers publishing lists of people they believed to be gay in an attempt to “name and shame” them.
In a response to the report, the Cameroonian Ministry for Justice said that homosexuality was “an unnatural activity that seeks to eliminate human reproduction.”
A statement on Amnesty blog says: “Cameroon’s own human rights commission refuses to recognise that the Section 347 is discriminatory.”
“Clearly life is horrid if you’re gay in Cameroon.”