Cameroonian gay activist under pressure over EU grant

Members of the gay community in Kenya protest outside the office of the prime minister after he in November 2010 called for their arrest. Sexual minorities are yet to be accepted on the wider African continent. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW  

Cameroonian gay rights activist Alice Nkomo has come in for sharp criticism over a European Union grant meant to provide health training for sexual minorities in the conservative country.

News of the euro 300,000 grant which was finalised last week has heightened already widespread sentiment against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in the west African country.

Anti-gay movements in the country have urged the government to take the EU to task for providing the funds to Ms Nkomo’s organisation.

The funds, sourced by Ms Nkomo, are allegedly also intended to combat discrimination.

Ms Nkomo is a popular lawyer and founder of the Association for the Defence of Homosexuals (Adefho) which was recognised by the Cameroonian government in 2003.

She says she has received several threats from anti-gay movements and that she expects to be arrested by the government any time for her latest efforts to promote minority sex groups.

Massive public awareness

Homosexual acts are officially forbidden in Cameroon and are punishable with a prison term of up to five years and a fine of $50-$500.

But human rights advocates in the country argue that although homosexual acts are illegal, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) identities are not criminalised.

They argue further that organisations that assist LGBTs are not in themselves criminal and hence can operate freely as long as they do not facilitate relations between persons of the same sex.

Over the last three years, the proliferation of gay activities in Cameroon has caused a corresponding rise in the number of anti-minority sex organisations, including a coalition called ‘Rassemblement de la Jeunesse Camerounaise’ or ‘Rally of the Cameroonian Youth’.

Unofficial figures put the number of minority sex group members at close to a million out of the country's estimated population of 19 million.

On January 7 this year, the coalition launched a massive public awareness campaign on behalf of sexual minorities with a view to support efforts by the government which has been threatening to arrest and prosecute those it terms offenders.

But Ms Nkomo who was arrested in 2006 for her activities last week told her sympathisers: "Do not worry about me…I think I will be arrested in the coming days, but I will not lose any sleep over it and above all, I will not abandon what we started together."

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