Death by homophobia in Cameroon
Last year was a busy year for Cameroonian lawyer Alice Nkom, but then again … it was a busy year for the Cameroonian government, and its various allies, persecuting and prosecuting anyone it suspects of being gay, lesbian, transgender, of a sexuality, feminine, or different.
This year promises, or threatens, to be equally busy. This week, leading Cameroonian LGBT rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe was found tortured and murdered. These are urgent times in Cameroon, as noted today at Africa Is a Country, and Alice Nkom, as ever, is in the thick of the urgencies.
Alice Nkom was the first woman to become a lawyer in Cameroon. That was in 1969, and she was then 24 years old, and she’s been kicking through ever since. Over the last four decades, Nkom has been a leading civil rights and women’s rights activist and advocate in Cameroon, and for the last decade or so has become famous, or infamous, for her defense of LGBTIQ persons, communities and rights.
In February 2003, Nkom established ADEFHO, L’association pour la défense des droits des homosexuel(le)s. The Association for the Defence of Homosexuals has suffered threats, attacks, intimidation. Nkom has received death threats. She has been imprisoned. She has been threatened with being disbarred. And she persists and returns to court again and again.
In December of last year, Alice Nkom once again was in the news when an appeals court upheld the three-year sentence of her client Jean-Claude Roger Mbédé, whose crime was sending another man a text message that read, “I’m very much in love with you.” In July, Mbédé was released provisionally, and so this sends him back to jail, to the harassment and assaults “at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of … perceived and unproven sexual orientation”. He goes back as well to the general hellhole of Yaounde incarceration, a prison originally built for 600 that now houses 4,000.