Cameroon: Lawyer vows return to defending gay rights despite death threats to his children

February 18, 2013
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The Cameroonian lawyer whose family fled to America after receiving death threats over his defence of gay people has made a stand, saying it is his “duty” to return to Cameroon and continue his work there.

Lawyer Michel Togue has made a name for himself as a defender of gay rights in Cameroon, where same-sex sexual activity is a criminal offense. 

Mr Togue told the AFP that “Homophobia is on the rise, and intolerance is growing.” He said that in Cameroon homosexuality is associated with “sorcery and black magic”.

In December, Mr Togue defended Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, who was jailed for admitting his love for another man in a text message. Mr Togue called Cameroon’s refusal to release Mr Mbede “a tragedy”.

Last year, Mr Togue’s family started receiving threatening messages through calls, text messages and emails. They included an email which showed photographs of his children leaving school, and phone calls asking Mr Togue’s wife “which of her children she would sacrifice so her husband will give up defending homosexuals.”

Mr Togue’s family left Cameroon to seek asylum in the US in November, and he himself joined them in January. He said that he had received support from the French Embassy in Cameroon, but his family had gone to the US as it “was the first to react” by giving them temporary residence.

The family still receive threats in the US: “They say they are going to kidnap my children, that they’ll turn them into queers. I feel very vulnerable,” Mr Togue told the AFP.

He said he hoped to return to Cameroon to continue his work.

“It’s my duty to defend human rights and to contribute to a more tolerant Cameroon. It would be cowardly to give up,” he said.

While in the US Mr Togue has met with the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to discuss LGBT rights in Cameroon.

Hillary Clinton is among the public figures to have praised Mr Togue, saying he “has fought tirelessly to defend LGBT persons… we greatly applaud his commitment and his courage.”

Related topics: AFP, Africa, Americas, Cameroon, Cameroon, death threat, Gay rights, lawyer, LGBT rights, Michel Togue, US

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