Cameroon Court Victory a Rare Bright Spot for Gay Rights in Africa

Cameroon Court Victory a Rare Bright Spot for Gay Rights in Africa

On Jan. 7, Cameroon’s gay rights community received a rare bit of good news. In what activists described as a breakthrough, the Court of Appeal in Yaoundé, the capital, overturned a ruling against two men found guilty of homosexuality in 2011.

Jonas Singa Kimie, 19, and Franky Ndome Ndome, 25, were arrested in July 2011 by authorities who accused them of violating Article 347 of the penal code, which explicitly outlaws gay sex acts. The authorities had no proof of the alleged acts, but claimed the men’s clothing, manner of speaking and drink of choice proved they were gay. A court agreed, sentencing them to the maximum five years in prison and fining them roughly $400 each. Behind bars, Ndome endured harassment and physical violence, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.

Activists were quick to praise the appeals court’s decision, knowing Kimie and Ndome were lucky to get out of jail. Twelve Cameroonians were convicted under Article 347 in 2011, according to Justice Ministry statistics, and Kimie and Ndome are the only ones known to have won appeals. A few weeks before the Jan. 7 ruling, the same court upheld the conviction and three-year sentence handed down to Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, a 32-year-old man who was arrested after sending a text message to another man saying, “I’m very much in love with you.”

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