Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday said that Cameroonian security forces, in a crackdown on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, have threatened, arrested, and assaulted at least 24 since February.
Among the arrested persons, at least one has been subjected to HIV testing and anal examination. Both the Cameroonian Penal Code and the Law Relating to Cybersecurity and Cybercriminality criminalize homosexual acts and propositions. Under section 347-1 of the penal code, sexual relations between people of the same sex are penalized with six months to five years of imprisonment and payment of a fine.
According to Cameroonian non-governmental organizations, there has been increased police action against LGBT people in the country. On February 24, the police invaded a center that provides HIV prevention and treatment services, and arrested 17 people, who were accused of homosexuality, including center staff. One of those arrested, a 22-year-old transgender woman, said, “Police told us we are devils, not humans, not normal. They beat a trans woman in the face, slapped her twice in front of me.”
There have also been instances where prosecutors have introduced medical evidence from forced anal examinations, which have led to increased convictions based on homosexual conduct.
HRW documented two additional arrests in 2021 and one mass arrest in 2020. In Bertoua, on February 14, gendarmes arrested 12 youths, including at least one teenager, on homosexuality charges, and subjected them to ill-treatment before releasing them the same day. On February 8, gendarmes arbitrarily arrested two transgender women in Douala, targeting them in the street based on their gender expression. They were charged with homosexual conduct, lack of identity cards, and public indecency. In May, the police in Bafoussam arrested 53 people on homosexuality charges at a hotel gathering hosted by an LGBT organization, and subjected at least 6, including minors, to forced anal examinations and HIV tests.
“These recent arrests and abuses raise serious concerns about a new upsurge in anti-LGBT persecution in Cameroon,” said Neela Ghoshal, HRW’s associate LGBT rights director. “The law criminalizing same-sex conduct puts LGBT people at a heightened risk of being mistreated, tortured, and assaulted without any consequences for the abusers.”
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides for non-discrimination and equality before the law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cameroon is a party, also protects the rights to equality, non-discrimination, and privacy.
HRW shared its findings with the relevant Cameroonian government officials but is yet to receive a response.