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Rights groups urge Cameroon to decriminalize same-sex acts

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Alternatives-Cameroun [advocacy websites] on Thursday urged the government of Cameroon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to decriminalize consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex [press release]. Under Article 347 of the Cameroon Penal Code [DHS backgrounder], same-sex acts are subject to a punishment of six months to five years in prison. The groups called on the Cameroon government to implement the July recommendations [report, DOC] of the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) [official website]. After a periodic review [press release] of Cameroon's implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], the UNHRC urged Cameroon to immediately decriminalize consenting same-sex acts, address negative social stigmas of same-sex relationships and express its intolerance of discrimination, harassment and violence because of sexual orientation. The UNHRC also expressed concern that the criminalization of same-sex acts impedes the effectiveness of HIV and AIDS prevention programs. Director of Alternatives-Cameroun Steave Nemande cited the need to support sexual tolerance and education programs:

By implementing this recommendation, Cameroon would do the bare minimum to realize the fundamental human rights enshrined in its national constitution. To save lives, the government should immediately start implementing effective education programs to combat HIV/AIDS.
In June, HRW and Alternatives-Cameroun told the UNHRC that the Cameroon government's discriminatory policies deny access to HIV prevention programs and health services, treatment and care to those engaging in same-sex acts.

According to a 2009 Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; abstract], the Cameroon government participated in and encouraged unlawful executions, torture and other human rights violations [JURIST report]. The report alleges that such violations have been taking place for more than 10 years and may increase with the current global economic crisis and continued political unrest. According to the report, the actions by many governmental officials violate national law as well as the ICCPR. The ICCPR guarantees the right of equal treatment and the right of equal protection under the law, without discrimination. In 1994, the UNHRC held in Toonen v. Australia [case materials] that sexual orientation is included in the protections against discrimination in the ICCPR.

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