Cameroon Catholic lawyers vow to uphold anti-gay laws

Models pose as a gay married couple.  FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A group of lawyers affiliated with the Catholic Church in Cameroon has backed the country’s anti-gay campaign, saying the laws forbidding the practice must be strictly upheld.

The Association of Cameroon Roman Catholic jurists made the weekend declaration during a conference on homosexuality held in the economic capital Douala.

Sandrine Soppo, who heads the group, said opposing homosexuality is not a question of human rights violations, a stance often taken by those who want gay unions legalised in the country. According to the lawyer, the question was about human dignity.

“We are taken aback by the current state of the world... we deem it necessary to respond. The Association of Catholic Jurists wants people to understand that the world is in danger and must reframe its values,” she said.

The group’s position echoes the Church’s vehement disapproval of homosexuality, which is said to be flourishing even though a it is a criminal offence in the central African nation.

In Cameroon, homosexuality is punishable by a jail sentence ranging from six months to five years and fines for those convicted could be between $38 and $374.

Local and international gay rights defenders have been bitterly critical of the laws that forbid homosexuality, which is widely viewed in the country as an unwanted western cultural import.

'Crime against humanity'

On January 30, President Paul Biya told reporters in Paris that “mindsets can evolve in one way or another” regarding same sex unions after a meeting with his French counterpart François Hollande.

According to Samuel Kléda, the Archbishop of Douala, homosexuality is against nature, and is condemned by the Bible which considers it an abomination.

Early this month, the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon slammed same-sex unions calling them "forgeries" that undervalue human nature.

Homosexuality “falsifies human anthropology and trivializes sexuality, marriage and the family, the foundation of society,” read the Conference statement which urged “all believers and people of good will to reject homosexuality and so-called ‘gay marriage.’ ”

But the Catholic bishops called on Christians to show compassion by coming to the aid of gays through prayer and spiritual guidance.

Archbishop of Yaoundé Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot during Christmas Day mass castigated same sex relationships as “a serious crime against humanity”.

“We must stand up and fight it with all our might,” said the prelate.

The declaration followed a Yaoundé appeals court’s decision to uphold a three-year jail sentence against 32-year-old Jean-Claude Roger Mbédé.

Mbédé., who was found guilty of homosexual conduct after sending a text message to another man telling him he loved him, wrote to the French leader requesting him to ask Biya to grant clemency.

In 2011, 14 people were prosecuted for homosexuality in Cameroon and at least 12 were convicted last year, according to Justice ministry records.

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