Participants in a health rights training session in Yaoundé, Cameroon, were violently assaulted late last month by anti-LGBT assailants. Police responded by launching an investigation of the victims.
Members of the advocacy organization Defenders Without Borders (DSF) were threatened with criminal charges for alleged violations of Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality law, which covers same-sex intimacy but not advocacy of gay rights.
By Steeves Winner
The time was Saturday, Sept. 21, at 2 p.m. The scene was a training session about HIV and the health care rights provided by DSF in a classroom of the Nkoldongo section of Yaoundé.
Youths from the neighborhood attacked six participants, including both gays and lesbians.
First they shouted insults at the participants as they arrived. The pace of the insults increased as the session got under way.
The moderator interrupted the training session and instructed the guests to return to their homes.
Thugs spread out in the neighborhood to warn residents that homosexuals were in the area.
When they encountered a group of attendees, the youths seized them, beat them and stole their cell phones. Of nine people at the training session, only three managed to escape uninjured.
Because of the incident, family members learned of the sexual orientation of four of the participants and promptly expelled them from their home. Those four found temporary shelter with friends, but otherwise are homeless.
DSF has suspended operations until it can find a safe place for meetings.
Police summoned the leadership of DSF, its members, and participants at the training session to the police station for an investigation of `whether they should be charged with violations of Cameroon’s law against homosexual activity.
“If there could be a LGBT-friendly world where we could live without complaining, I think I would be the first to go there,” one participant commented.
Steeves Winner, the author of this article, is an activist for LGBTI rights in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.