Cameroon rejects UN Human Rights Council’s gay rights recommendations

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Cameroon has rejected the United Nations Human Rights Council’s recommendation that it decriminalise homosexuality.

During its Universal Periodic Review with the Council, Cameroon rejected nearly all proposals that involved tackling homophobic discrimination, abuse and violence in the country.

The country has one of the highest prosecution rates for consensual same-sex sexual relations in the world.

Cameroon rejected the Council’s call to end its policy of arbitrary arrests for same-sex conduct, as well as Uruguay’s proposal to tackle harassment and violence based on sexual orientation, and Germany’s proposal to protect LGBT people from violence.

Human Rights Watch said that Cameroon’s reaction to the proposals was “shameful,” adding that the country had “distanced itself from a growing consensus, voiced by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Human Rights Council, that discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are never acceptable.

Cameroon did however accept Belgium’s recommendation to investigate police violence against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. A report by Human Rights Watch in March had found that the country’s security forces routinely torture people to make them confess to having same-sex relations.

An Amnesty International report submitted in preparation for Cameroon’s Universal Periodic Review stated: “Violence, arbitrary arrests and detention of men and women because of their real or perceived sexual orientation are commonplace in Cameroon and have been on the increase since the mid-2000s. Some have been beaten by members of the security forces or by members of the community largely motivated by homophobia.

Human Rights Watch said: “Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality law violates its own Constitution, as well as international law. Cameroon’s claim that the law targets people who have sex in public is patently false.

“In 2013, at least six people have been convicted for homosexuality; not a single one was caught having sex. One man was convicted in 2011 for sending a romantic text message.”

Under section 347 of the penal code, those found guilty of same-sex sexual acts in Cameroon face up to five years imprisonment.

In July, prominent Cameroonian gay rights and HIV campaigner Eric Ohena Lembembe was brutally murdered in his home, just days after speaking out against increasing violence against the country’s LGBT community.

One of his friends reported that his neck and feet had been broken, and that he had been burnt with an iron.