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Human Rights Watch urges government to eliminate law used to entrap for sexual orientation

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - Johannesburg, May 17, 2011 - The March arrest, conviction, and sentencing of Roger Jean-Claude Mbede to three years in prison for being homosexual is a gross violation of Mbede's rights to freedom of expression and equality guaranteed by the Cameroonian constitution, Alternatives-Cameroun, Association pour la Defense de l'Homosexualité (ADEFHO), and Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Cameroon's top leaders.

Under section 347 bis, a person who engages in "sexual relations with a person of the same sex" can face a prison term of up to five years. Mbede was sentenced after admitting to his sexual orientation while in police custody. However, the law directly contravenes international human rights treaties, which, the Cameroonian constitution states, apply directly in the country.

"This law criminalizes consensual sexual conduct and violates the fundamental rights to privacy, equality, and freedom of expression of all Cameroonians," said Alice Nkom of ADEFHO. "The fear and stigma attached to homosexuality is such that the police use the mere existence of the law to trap individuals with impunity. And courts convict those accused even in the absence of evidence."

In their letter, ADEFHO, Alternatives-Cameroun, and Human Rights Watch urge Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Hon. Amadou Ali to initiate a review of the law criminalizing consensual sexual conduct and the conviction in this case, and call on the General Delegate of Security Martin Mbarga Nguélé and the Secretary of State for Defence Jean Baptiste Bokam to cease arrests under section 347 bis of the Cameroonian penal code.

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To read the full press release, click here

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