Friday, March 18, 2016

Can homosexuality be decriminalized in Cameroon?

By Ngwa Abah
Despite the stigma and punishment attached to homosexuality in Cameroon, this act, which is considered as an abomination in most African cultures, is seemingly gaining grounds in this Central African country among young and old people.      
   Homosexuality remains a crime in Cameroon, and according to the country’s penal code, in its Section 347, “Whoever has sexual relationship with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years and a fine from 20.000Fcfa to 200.000 Fcfa"
    But why do some Cameroonians want the decriminalization of homosexuality?
They advance several reasons; but some of their strongest arguments for it are that: it is a legal practice in at least 20 countries including a leading African country, South Africa, and that the criminalization of consensual sexual conduct between same-sex adults is a violation of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),which Cameroon  ratified  on June 27, 1984
     But it is also worthy of note that homosexuality is currently considered as a crime in over 65 countries, and over 50 of which have ratified the ICCPR.
     Some advocates think that if it were that bad first world countries such as the US would not condone it. Europe is the first region where homosexuality is legal in all countries.
    Others including some local rights organizations that are calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality claim that sexual orientation is a Human Right. They think that people should not be harassed, threatened or even prosecuted because of whom they love.
     Although pressure is being mounted on Cameroon by some international organizations such as   Amnesty International to decriminalize homosexuality, it is doubtful whether the country can yield to their demands
     Nganji Yonge Stephen, a resident of Buea, argues that it is high time Cameroon decriminalize homosexuality.
   This rights activist, who is a volunteer of Vision In Action Cameroon (VIAC), an organization based in Buea and created in 2007  with the goal of empowering communities on human rights issues ,told reporters recently that, he has been molested, insulted and almost lynched simply because he advocates the rights of gay people.
     It is alleged that Nganji Yonge,31 year-old, is a homosexual, a claim he has vehemently refused when questioned by reporters. “You can support what is good for others but you must not necessarily be one of them”, he said.
    Asked if he not is afraid advocating for homosexuality, he retorted: “It remains a crime in Cameroon and so we may be arrested for promoting it. Thus, we are cautious the way we go about our campaign”
   While Nganji Yonge is one of the proponents of homosexuality, many opponents are instead calling on the Government to launch a continuous crackdown on crime.

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