Over the last year, there has been a lot of attention paid to state-sanctioned homophobia in Africa, where there are many countries that make same-sex sexual activity illegal. Around the world, there are about 80 countries that criminalize homosexual behavior. Gay and lesbian groups have been fighting back against public harassment and human rights violations and making some progress – last week we blogged about a court ruling in Uganda that prevents newspapers from publishing the names of people whom they suspect of being gay.
A lot of the publicized homophobia and rights violations have been about criminalizing and punishing individuals. But this week, there’s news of potential impact that criminalization could have on one of our organizational colleagues. Alice Nkom, the well-known lawyer who founded The Association to Defend Homosexuals (ADEFHO), an organization based in Cameroun, is coming under fire because of its receipt of a €300,000 grant from the European Union that would support the organization in providing services to sexual minorities.
Detractors claim that the European Union is financing a project whose activities are illegal under Camerounian law, making the European Union complicit and equally responsible for any crimes committed. Human rights advocates note, on the other hand, that although homosexual acts are illegal in Cameroun, LGBT identities are not criminalized. Work with LGBT people, therefore, remains legal as long as it does not include or promote same-sex sexual acts.
Last week television reports in Cameroun stated that Nkom—who was arrested in 2006 for visiting a gay client in prison– might face jail time again, being charged with “crimes against Cameroun’s law, sovereignty, and independence.” Nkom is not the only one on the ADEFHO team to be feeling the heat over same-sex activity criminalization: Sebastien Mandeng wrote about his illegal detainment for “promoting homosexuality” on Akimbo in 2009. We’ll keep you updated as the story develops.