After being seriously wounded by homophobic attackers wielding clubs, rocks and machetes, Pierre wants to leave Cameroon. But so far he has been blocked.
By Jean Pierre Minet
A year and a quarter had passed. Pierre (a pseudonym) could rest briefly on the porch of his aunt’s house. There he described what happened on the horrible night of August 8, 2017, a night that turned his life inside out.
At that time, 31-year-old Pierre had fallen for 21-year-old Jacques (also a pseudonym), a student who was helping his former nanny manage a streetside table where she sold soap, cigarettes and other items.
These events occurred in the Yaoundé area, but specific locations have been removed from this article for security reasons.
After many exchanges via social networks, the two men agreed to meet there on that Tuesday night. After Jacques was done tending the table, they went to a snack bar and spent the evening there. At the end of the evening, after several beers, they went to the house where Jacques was living.
Pierre, feeling a little drunk, asked Jacques if he could take a shower. That’s when things went wrong. The mistress of the house, an aunt of Jacques who did not know Pierre, surprised him alone in the shower. She started screaming, “Thief! Thief!,” alarming everyone in the house and waking the neighbors. It was about three o’clock in the morning.
Pierre quickly dressed and ran out of the house, but he was intercepted by angry neighbors. They surrounded him and began beating him with clubs and rocks. Some sliced at him with machetes
Fearing that he was about to die, Pierre called out to Jacques, pleading with him to declare that they were together.
As soon as Jacques admitted it, his family took him away. Pierre’s beating intensified and continued until five o’clock.
At that point, police intervened after receiving an anonymous call from a spectator. Police officers extracted both Pierre and Jacques from danger. They were arrested on charges of homosexuality.
Two local LGBT rights groups were quickly alerted. The advocacy groups Lady’s Cooperation and Camfaids sent representatives to the police station, where they found Pierre and Jacques. Under interrogation, both men acknowledged their homosexuality.
Both were charged with violating Cameron’s law against homosexual activity. Pierre was also charged with statutory rape because police believed that Jacques was under age 18.
Pierre remained in the police cell for five days without medical attention for injuries to his legs that were caused by the clubs and machetes. His flesh became infected and started to rot.
Pierre was released after five days after paying 45,000 CFA francs (about U.S. $80). Jacques was released a few days later after paying 50,000 CFA francs (about U.S. $87).
Pierre was hospitalized for a month for treatment of his festering wounds. Doctors scraped the skin of his leg to prevent more severe infection or sepsis. He underwent several reconstructive surgeries on his face, legs and back.
[Readers who want more details can choose to see an unpleasant picture showing injuries to Pierre’s leg and an unpleasant series of nine photos from the hospital documenting the condition of the leg.]
Jacques did not need medical care because he had been protected by his family.
Pierre’s employer fired him after being informed of the charges against him.
Lady’s Cooperation found temporary housing for Pierre in a remote village because Pierre continued to receive death threats from the family of Jacques. Because he had left the Yaoundé area, he missed a mandatory interview at the police station and now is wanted by police.
Pierre wants to leave Cameroon. He applied for a visa at the French embassy but was rejected. His supporters lack money to get him out of the country.
Today he cannot move safely in Cameroon because he could be stopped for an identity check and rearrested. He has difficulty finding a job because his previous employer fired him for homosexuality.
If you want to help Pierre, contact Lady’s Cooperation by email at [email protected] or by phone at (country code 237) 696434381 / 677505792.
Under Article 347-1 of Cameroon’s Penal Code, homosexual activity is punishable by imprisonment for six months to five years and a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs (about U.S. $35 to $350). At present, at least three young men are serving time for homosexuality in northern Cameroon. Many others have been subjected to arbitrary arrests and then released after paying a bribe.
About the author: Jean Pierre Minet, in France, is a human rights activist working on behalf of vulnerable populations and people with disabilities.