In Cameroon, prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
people is both very personal and very public. The Cameroon Penal Code
punishes “sexual relations with a person of the same sex” with a prison term
and a fine. The relevant article, 347 bis, became law in 1972, and until five
years ago, there was little information publicly available on its enforcement.
But on May 21, 2005, police arrested 32 people at a nightclub in the first of a
series of high-profile arrests and prosecutions continuing to the present.
Beyond arrest, gay, lesbian, and bisexual Cameroonians are at higher risk for
other problems. Police and prison officers routinely abuse detainees they
suspect of same-sex sexual relationships. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
transgender people may be more vulnerable to violent attacks inside and
outside the home, as they often avoid reporting a crime for fear of being
arrested, in turn, for homosexuality. Lesbian women can lose custody of their
children and be ostracized by their families. Those who are at risk for
HIV/AIDS infection or who are HIV positive have difficulty obtaining medical
and legal services. A general climate of fear means that rigid gender codes
are strictly enforced and people live out their lives in secrecy.