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Rights groups urge Cameroon to drop charges against transgender youths

Five human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], sent a letter letter [text] Cameroon authorities on Friday to drop the charges against two transgender youths rather than undergoing an appeal to the Cameroon Supreme Court [official website]. The defendants, who identify as women, were arrested [press release] in July 2011 and prosecuted on charges of homosexual conduct. Police who saw them dressed in women's clothing and stopped their vehicle, claiming the people in the car were groping each other. At trial no eyewitnesses were produced to confirm the charge, but the trial court convicted both defendants. The appellate court, however, overturned the conviction, reasoning that the trial court had improperly relied on confessions made under duress and lacked necessary witness testimony. The letter follows earlier requests [JURIST report] from rights groups to decriminalize the same-sex laws in accordance with recommendations issued by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) [official website], which expressed concern that the laws impede the effectiveness of HIV and AIDS prevention programs.

Rights of LGBT individuals remain a contentious issue throughout the world. Last week, Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal ruled [JURIST report] that a law prohibiting a transgender woman from marrying her boyfriend was invalid under the Chinese constitution. In March Canada's House of Commons approved a bill [JURIST report] outlawing discrimination against transgender individuals. The bill amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and hate propaganda section of the Criminal code to include "gender identity" and "gender expression" as an improper basis for discrimination and hate speech. In July Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell issued a regulation [JURIST report] that allows transgender individuals to change the sex indicator on their driver's licenses without undergoing surgery. In April 2012 the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Title VII employment discrimination protections extend to transgender individuals. In March 2012 the US Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST report] in Fields v. Smith, allowing a lower court decision that transgender hormone therapy is a medically necessary procedure to stand.

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