Sébastien, a member of the Association for the Defense of Homosexuality (ADEFHO), an IWHC partner, was illegally detained for several hours last week for ”promoting homosexuality” before finally escaping the grip of the policemen. The following is his account of the experience, which reveals a disturbing lack of rights and recourse available to the LGBTI population in Cameroun:
I am free! I am a Camerounian activist for LGBTI rights, and was held illegally by a police squad in Douala (the economic capital on the west coast of the country) for seven hours. I was arrested under charges of conversations against nature with a homophobic taxi-driver.
The altercation was started by the taxi-driver.
When returning from a trip with some friends, we hired a taxi, and during the ride we spoke about subjects relating to LGBTI rights and the need for decriminalization. From time to time the taxi-driver intervened in our conversation, and I asked for his opinions on the subject.
It was precisely at this moment that the situation took a turn for the worse.
He began driving much faster, shouting that instead of taking me to the final destination I had requested, he would take me to the nearest police station. When we arrived there, I paid the fare, and he became hysterical, crying out that he works hard with his hands and cannot tolerate homosexual practices.
When I arrived at the police station, it was four o’clock in the morning and the police locked me, barefoot, in a cell with no electricity, and insisted that the locked cell would provide protection. Throughout the hours I remained in custody I was subjected to insults, mocking and sarcasm from the policemen, who demanded to know why I don’t like women, why I prefer men, and “unnatural relations.”
Article 347 of the Cameroun penal code (ordinance n°72/16 of September 28, 1972) punishes by imprisonment from 6 months to 5 years and a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 FCFA any person who has sexual relations with someone of the same sex.
At one point the police threatened to insert their fingers into my anus in order to verify whether I am often sodomized, in order to charge me with homosexual activity later. I forcibly resisted, insisting that anyone who touched me would have to do so over my dead body.
After passing the night in the police cell, I was finally released after requesting legal council, and to be officially charged and placed in custody.
Although this incident was harrowing, I probably won’t consider filing a legal suit. They didn’t touch me physically, it was only the same insults and injuries we suffer daily, so I think I will stop here and hope that it never happens again to anyone.
Sébastien Mandeng is a lawyer in training who interned with the law firm Mes. VIAZZI-AUBRIET-BATTU-NKOM-IPOUCK, all advocates specializing in human rights. He currently works as the vice-president of the Association for the Defense of Homosexuality (ADEFHO).
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