Welcome to Cameroon, where drinking Baileys can lead to imprisonment

Human rights lawyer Michel Togue has described daily discrimination faced by gay people in Cameroon, including a case where a lawyer sentenced a man on the evidence he enjoyed an "woman's drink"

A human rights lawyer has described the horrendous treatment experienced by gay people in Cameroon – where drinking a Baileys could put you in prison.

Michel Togue, a Cameroonian lawyer, said he had defended dozens of gay people but few were ever caught in the act.

Mr Togue, speaking to the ThinkProgress blog, said the African country uses gender stereotypes to convict gay individuals.

Homosexuality is banned in Cameroon and since 1972 has carried a prison sentence of five years.

In one instance, a client of Mr Togue’s was convicted for his feminine mannerisms and drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream – a choice which the judge felt was a woman’s drink.

He says police rely on gender stereotypes to arrests suspected gay individuals, with people arousing suspicion for being – for example – a male hairdresser.

Mr Togue says that stigma fuels the accusations and arrests, with a lifestyle choices such as cross-dressing used as evidence a man is gay.

The atmosphere is having a negative effect on healthcare in the country, particularly HIV testing.

“They can’t go to the hospital for the treatment or even for a test because they’re afraid,” Togue explained.

In one case he had heard of an individual who was investigated by police after he admitted to a nurse that he’d had same-sex relations and she informed the authorities. 

Earlier this year Alice Nkom, a 69-year-old lawyer, claimed Cameroon was suffering under an “anti-homosexual apartheid”.

Comments