LGBTI in Cameroon: 50 arrested on Covid-19 charges

Police arrested 50 LGBTI people who gathered on May 17 in Bafoussam, western Cameroon, to learn about Covid-19 and to celebrate progress in international recognition of LGBTI rights.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

Map shows the location of Bafoussam in western Cameroon. (Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

By Courtney Stans

Cameroon is one of more than 130 nations worldwide where May 17 is celebrated as the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB or IDAHOBIT).

But this year, Cameroon police raided a gathering of 50 LGBTI citizens who were celebrating IDAHOTB day by learning about how to protect their health.

The evening’s celebration at the Oasis Hotel in Bafoussam was organized by the anti-AIDS and LGBTI rights association Colibri, which is working to improve health care in western Cameroon with financial support from the Global Fund. Colibri has been organizing information sessions about HIV and Covid-19 for the region’s transgender people in connection with IDAHOB.

Colibri association logo

Logo of Colibri

During the evening, a police squad raided the hotel and arrested everyone at the Colibri gathering and took them to the police station.

Among those arrested were gay men, trans women and lesbians. Some were minors.

They were accused of procuring, promotion of homosexuality and violations of public health regulations. Cameroon currently prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Some of those arrested were forced to undergo anal exams — a discredited and degrading procedure that’s mistakenly believed to establish whether a person is a homosexual.

Cameroon’s LGBTI rights advocacy organizations responded to the arrests, including Humanity First Cameroon, Alternatives-Cameroon, Camfaids, Defenseurs Sans Frontieres and the Unity platform, the country’s human-rights watchdog coalition.

Working together, the organizations arranged for a bond to be posted for each of the 50 arrestees. As a result, all of them were released on bail on the night of May 19.

The author of this article, Courtney Stans, is a Cameroonian journalist who writes under a pseudonym. Contact her at [email protected].