President of Cameroon: People may change their minds on ‘crime’ of homosexuality

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The President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, said on Wednesday that he could see that attitudes about his country’s criminalisation of homosexuality were changing.

Cameroon has been criticised by the European Union for its anti-gay law.

In interviews after meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, Mr Biya said that homosexuality had been illegal since before he came to power in the country, over thirty years ago.

On Tuesday, following months of debate and controversy over the issue of equal marriage and gay adoption, proposals to allow it went befor French parliament.

“Now I can say that discussions are under way. People are talking, minds can change one way or another but currently it’s a crime,” he said.

“We have recently had news that tribesmen convicted for homosexuality have been released. So there is a change of mind and there’s no reason to despair,” Biya said according to a Reuters report.

Two men in Cameroon, who were jailed under homophobic laws; based on their appearance and their enjoyment of drinking Bailey’s, have been released from prison.

In November 2011, a court sentenced the two men, known as Francky and Jonas, to five years in prison after police arrested them for allegedly having oral sex in a car in the capital, Yaounde.

Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief had previously said that the country’s criminalisation of homosexuality was incompatible with international human rights laws.

The penalties for homosexuality in Cameroon range from six months to five years in jail, and human rights activists have been concerned that there have been more convictions in recent years.

In 2012, twelve people were convicted under the anti-gay law.