Gay Rights: All Out Urges Cameroon to Repeal Anti-gay Laws, Release Prisoners

By IndepthAfrica
In Cameroon
Jan 31st, 2013
0 Comments
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A press release sent from my friend Joe Mirabella at All Out:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2013

  • Cameroonian President Paul Biya said in Paris on Wednesday that minds in the country are evolving on the subject of gay people.
  • The statement followed a global outcry from global movement for equality, All Out (www.AllOut.org). 122,000 All Out members have signed a petition to Biya calling for the freedom of a man named Roger Jean-Claude Mbede and all those jailed under Cameroon’s anti-gay law.
  • All Out renews its call to President Biya to release Roger and all those in jail under Cameroon’s anti-gay law, and end the use of those laws once and for all.

Paris, France - Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said on Wednesday, January 30 in Paris that ‘minds in the country are evolving’ on the subject of gay people. This statement followed a massive outcry on behalf of a student in Cameroon, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, who had been sentenced to 3 years in prison under Cameroon’s anti-gay law for sending a love text message to another man. More than 122,000 members of the global movement for equality All Out (www.allout.org) have signed a petition to Biya asking him to free Roger and end the laws that make it illegal to be gay in Cameroon.

“President Biya said there may be movement away from the criminalized and negative treatment of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Cameroon — but the truth is that Roger just had his jail sentence affirmed for sending a text message expressing love to another man, and others remain in jail after being accused of being gay,” said Andre Banks, Co-founder and Executive Director of All Out. “Things are getting worse, not better, for gay people in Cameroon. It is time for more action and less talk. Biya must free Roger and others accused of being gay through an immediate end of the anti-gay law.”

President Biya pointed to a recent groundbreaking case where two individuals, known as Francky and Jonas, were acquitted after being sentenced to 5 years in prison. Francky and Jonas were convicted in 2011 when a judge said the way they dressed, the way they spoke and that they liked Bailey’s Irish Cream proved they were gay.

Biya arrived in France this week to meet with French President Françoise Hollande. During the meetings, Roger, joined by All Out, launched a plea for Hollande to speak to President Biya on Roger’s behalf.  In 2011, Roger was arrested and sentenced to 3 years in prison after sending an SMS to another man. He spent more than a year in prison while facing abuse and ill health, until he was released pending his appeal. His conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in Yaounde on 17 December 2012, so Roger could face more jail time if he is not freed from his sentence.

“Mr. Hollande, here in Cameroon I am a criminal because I am gay. I need your help to convince the President of Cameroon to reverse my 3-year prison sentence, to release all innocent people in prison in Cameroon simply because they “seem gay” and put an end to laws that make being gay a crime!” said Roger Mbédé. “I am calling all people to join All Out to help me raise my voice and fight this injustice.”

Roger’s lawyer, Alice N’Kom who traveled to Paris as well to make Roger’s plight known to Hollande said, “President Biya has the power to free Roger, and put an end to laws that make it illegal to be gay in Cameroon — and disgrace our country.”

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