Africa

Cameroon man sentenced to nine years in prison for same-sex relationship

Staff Reports

LIMBE, Cameroon — A Cameroon man has been sentenced to nine years in prison for breaking that nation’s laws against homosexuality.

Cornelius Fonya, 35, had been accused of the sexual molestation of a 14-year-old boy after the youth’s family accused him of rape last year, but during the course of the trial proceedings, it was determined that the youth was actually 19-years-old and that the sexual relationship was consensual.

CameroonFonya has been incarcerated since Oct. 29, 2012, after a mob seized him and hauled him to the police station.

Fonya posted bail at the time, but a judge denied the motion after the mother of the alleged victim claimed that her son had become mentally ill because of the sexual encounter.

LGBT activists from CAMEF, the Cameroon Empowerment Association for Outreach Programs, decried the fact that Fonya’s conviction was not supported by witnesses’ testimony in court. The alleged victim and his family never appeared in court and never testified against Fonya.

Instead, the judge reportedly relied on the youth’s statement to police.

The country’s penal code stipulates a maximum sentence of five years for those found guilty of same-sex sexual acts between adults but legal observers noted that the sentence imposed instead reflects the maximum penalty for a conviction of same-sex relations with a minor.

“The legal system in Cameroon has proven once more the homophobic context in which we are currently living in, where it is enough for one to get imprisoned for his or her perceived or actual sexual preferences,” a spokesperson for CAMEF said after the conviction. “We need to do something so as to put an end to this continuous human rights violation suffered by members of the LGBT community here in Cameroon.”

Activists from CAMEF allege that the LGBT community in Cameroon faces extreme homophobia.

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“Members of the LGBT community are often beaten in the streets, others stoned to death in the past and others arbitrarily detained on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation then sent to prison after being sentenced by a judge with no evidence of same-sex practices,” the activist said.

In July, prominent Cameroonian gay rights and HIV activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was brutally murdered in his home, just days after speaking out against increasing violence against the country’s LGBT community.

Earlier this year, a report by four human rights organizations found that Cameroon prosecutes people for consensual same-sex conduct more aggressively than almost any country in the world.

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