On September 17, a Cameroonian high court sitting in Yaoundé adjourned the appeal hearing brought by lawyers on behalf of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, who was sentenced to three years in jail for texting another man, “I am very much in love with you.” The delay was issued because there were documents missing from the case file. A new date has been set for November 19.
Mbede was sent to prison on March 9, 2011 after he was convicted under Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code. In addition to jail time, Mbede was fined 33,000 Francs CFA (about $61 USD). Mbede spent 16 months in prison before being released on July 16, 2012 for health reasons. He currently remains free, awaiting the verdict in the appeal.
“Sitting in the court room, I was overwhelmed with emotion,” said Damian Ugwu, Program Coordinator for Africa at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “This delay and postponement of justice is a particularly cruel punishment for a ‘crime’ as simple as a declaration of love. Justice will only be served if on November 19, the Cameroonian High Court grants appeal in Mbebe’s case and ends his jail term.”
Section 347a of the Cameroon Penal Code, which became law in 1972, punishes “sexual relations with a person of the same sex” with a prison term of six months to five years and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 Francs CFA.
LGBT Cameroonians are subject to violence and discrimination by both the state and society, a fact that has been documented by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Alternatives Cameroun, the Centre for Human Rights, and Global Rights.
In 2011 there was a spike in arrests of LGBT people in Cameroon. On September 21, 2011 IGLHRC, with Alternatives Cameroun, Amnesty International, ADEFHO, and Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to President Paul Biya of Cameroon, calling for the government to immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against all individuals detained under Section 347a; end arrests, detention, prosecution and persecution and discrimination against LGBT people; and repeal all legislation criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), founded in 1990, is a leading international human rights organization dedicated to improving the lives of people who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We are dedicated to strengthening the capacity of the LGBT human rights movement worldwide to conduct documentation of LGBT human rights violations and by engaging in human rights advocacy with partners around the globe. We work with the United Nations, regional human rights monitoring bodies and civil society partners. IGLHRC holds consultative status at the United Nations as a recognized Non-Governmental Organization representing the concerns and human rights of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people worldwide. For more information about the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission visit: www.iglhrc.org.