man convicted for sending text
by Heather Cassell
A Cameroonian court this week upheld a trial court's three-year prison sentence and ordered the arrest of Roger Jean-Claude Mbede.
Mbede was convicted of homosexuality for sending a "love text" to another man in March 2011.
"The decision sends a warning to LGBT Cameroonians that they risk beatings, arrests, and imprisonment simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Neela Ghoshal, a researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch, in a December 18 news release.
Mbede was afraid to return to prison. He held back tears as he spoke to the Associated Press by phone. "I am going back to the dismal conditions that got me critically ill before. I am not sure I can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair," he told the wire service.
Homosexuality is a criminal act under Cameroon's penal code, which criminalizes same-sex sexual acts and has been enforced since 1972. Convicted individuals can face up to five years in prison and a fine of $400.
Mbede, 32, a philosophy student at Yaounde University, was arrested and beaten by authorities for texting another man, "I've fallen in love with you."
In 2011, the receiver of the amorous text informed authorities and helped set up Mbede by inviting him over to his house. Mbede was subsequently arrested upon arrival. During his detention police beat him until he confessed to three other relationships with men he named to authorities for the investigation, according to HRW.
He was sent to Kondengui Central Prison in June 2011. During his incarceration, authorities and other inmates assaulted Mbede and his health deteriorated, he told representatives of LGBT and human rights organizations.
Mbede was provisionally released on bail in July due to his deteriorating health and pressure from human rights activists.
Cameroon is one of the toughest African countries when it comes to anti-homosexuality laws. A month after Mbede's sentencing four other young men were arrested and sentenced for homosexuality. There are at least three other cases of individuals and groups of people being arrested, allegedly for "homosexuality."
In November, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned Cameroon's anti-LGBT actions. Speaking to reporters in Geneva, he hoped to pressure the Cameroonian court to overturn "unjust sentences" that individuals in three cases face.
According to Colville, two other cases involving individuals sentenced to prison based on homosexuality were up for appeal hearings in November. More information about these cases hasn't been made available.
It has been reported that Cameroonian attorneys Alice Nkom and Michel Togue, who are working on Mbede's appeal hearing, have received multiple threats toward themselves and their families. Nkom was arrested and released earlier this year. Both attorneys have filed complaints with authorities, but no one has been apprehended in relation to the threats, according to HRW.
"Threats like these shows us that the fight must continue," Nkom told Gay Star News. "If Cameroon's leaders don't end these anti-gay laws now, homophobic threats, violence and arrests will continue unchecked."
Togue added, "Myself, my wife, and my family have all received threats like these, all because I defend people who are accused of 'homosexual behavior.' It's time for Cameroon to stop throwing innocent people in jail for being different ... and end this hate."
Kadaga fails to deliver the 'Kill the Gays' bill
Christmas came early to LGBT Ugandans. The "Kill the Gays" bill promised by Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga as a "Christmas gift" to Ugandans didn't make it to Parliament by a December 14 deadline.
Kadaga, who was entertaining a blessing by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on December 13, could have requested an extension for a vote on the proposal, formally called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, during the parliamentary session before the holiday break, but parliament went on holiday last Friday. It isn't known if an extension was requested.
Kadaga was in Italy with a delegation to attend the seventh Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights, according to an article on the Ugandan Parliament's website.
In the meantime, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was moved from the top item to seventh place on the "notice of business to follow" papers on the parliamentary schedule.
The anti-gay bill proposes stiff penalties for LGBT individuals and associates up to the death penalty. It was introduced by Member of Parliament David Bahati in 2009. The bill has been stuck in a cycle of being tabled and brought back to the legislative committees unchanged each year since its introduction.
It could be taken up again for debate in January or February when Parliament resumes, according to LGBT Ugandan and human rights activists.
Ugandan LGBT activists are annoyed by the back-and-forth on the bill.
"I think it might be voted upon soon, that's my feeling," Frank Mugisha, a gay rights activist and executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, told the New Yorker. "But I also feel that the government wants to keep the bill alive as a distraction. I'm so angry at our parliament – they're embarrassing themselves."
Homosexuality is already criminalized in Uganda's penal code. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni urged officials to enforce the law that was already on the books. Currently, LGBT individuals can face life imprisonment under the code.
Russia tables federal anti-homosexuality bill
The Council of the State Duma suddenly rescheduled the first reading of the draft "anti-homosexual propaganda" bill until January, announced the Russian LGBT network on December 17.
A technical issue provided the hiccup in the schedule, but the agenda remains the same when it resumes on January 22, the LGBT Russian activists stated in the announcement.
The bill it set to amend the Code of Administrative Offences with Article 6.13.1. The law would make the promotion of homosexuality among minors an administrative offense in federal law, carrying fines up to $16,200 for violators, according to Amnesty International.
The bill was tabled after the European Parliament called upon Russia and the Ukraine to drop the countries' proposed anti-homosexuality propaganda bills earlier this month.