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Conference in Paris aims to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide

France’s new ambassador for LGBTI rights lends his support to African activists.

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Jean-Marc Berthon, newly appointed French ambassador for LGBTI rights. (Photo courtesy of ADHEOS)

Jean-Marc Berthon, newly appointed French ambassador for LGBTI rights. (Photo courtesy of ADHEOS)

By Steeves Winner

In Paris from March 6 to 9, LGBTI rights advocates from Cameroon, Senegal and Tunisia took part in an international conference seeking worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, especially in Africa.

The conference was organized by the French organizations Stop Homophobie and Association for the Universal Decriminalization of Homosexuality with support from  Jean-Marc Berthon, the newly appointed French ambassador for the rights of LGBTI people.

The conference was preceded by a preparatory meeting at the National Assembly and consultations with Berthon.

A round table at the National Assembly had as its theme “the contribution of African LGBTI organizations in the process of decriminalization of homosexuality”. Speakers included French legislator Ségolène Semiot. Panelists discussed anti-gay African penal codes, along with political and social stigma against LGBTI people.

They focused on the importance of  repealing Article 230 of Tunisia‘s penal code, which provides for up to three years in prison for same-sex intimacy, and supporting activists working to protect LGBTI people in Tunisia who are in unsafe situations.

For Senegal, panelists proposed diplomatic action questioning Senegalese leaders about a resurgence of violence against LGBTI people and their organizations.

Regarding Cameroon, LGBTI rights activist Jean Jacques Dissoke stated:

“Cameroon and Africa do not necessarily need foreign interventions to improve the climate of violence against LGBTI people. We have our realities and we are responsible for our own environment. We just need financial support for our advocacy with our leaders. For this purpose, you have funds, put them at our disposal and we will work.”

LGBTI activists meet with Jean-Marc Berthon, French ambassador for LGBTI rights.

LGBTI activists meet with Jean-Marc Berthon, French ambassador for LGBTI rights.

During the consultations with French ambassador for LGBTI rights Berthon, he expressed his support for the LGBTI movement in Africa and his willingness to collaborate with activists to improve the living conditions of African LGBTI communities through funding, training for LGBTI organizations, strategic interventions and diplomacy.

The conference itself was attended by Berthon, the Deputy Mayor of Paris, the Minister of Equality, the Minister of Transport, and many others. Issues discussed at the conference included working with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) on decriminalization of homosexuality (Dissoke); the difficulties and advantages of decriminalization in Cameroon, in particular providing legal defense for LGBTI people in Cameroon (LGBTI rights attorney Alice Nkom) and the realities of the struggle for LGBTI rights in Senegal and Tunisia.

Steeves Winner, the author of this article, is an LGBTI rights activist in Cameroon who writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at [email protected].


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