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(New York) - Cameroon should decriminalize consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex, Human Rights Watch and Alternatives-Cameroun said today. The groups urged the government of Cameroon to put into effect immediately the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, made public on July 29, 2010, to bring Cameroon's law into conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Since 2005, Alternatives-Cameroun, Human Rights Watch, and other Cameroonian and international organizations have documented abuses and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Cameroon. Suspected homosexual men have been arrested and beaten on their bodies, heads, and even the soles of their feet while in custody. Women suffer violence in their families if they are suspected of being lesbians. In some cases, they have been forced to leave their homes or their children have been taken away from them.

"Cameroon should guarantee lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people the same rights as every other citizen," said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. "There is no reason why anyone in Cameroon should live in fear of prosecution and abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Alternatives-Cameroun and Human Rights Watch delivered an oral statement to the UN Human Rights Committee on July 12, summarizing the human rights abuses people in Cameroon have experienced on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Cameroon does not include services for men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women in their HIV prevention programs, the groups told the committee. Alternatives-Cameroun has also found in its day-to-day work that this policy effectively bars access for many of them to health services, treatment, and care.

The UN Human Rights Committee issued a recommendation to Cameroon's government to end social prejudice and stigmatization against LGBT people and to guarantee public health programs that have "universal reach and ensure universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support." The government should also carry out this recommendation, Human Rights Watch and Alternatives-Cameroun said.

"By implementing this recommendation, Cameroon would do the bare minimum to realize the fundamental human rights enshrined in its national constitution," said Steave Nemande, director of Alternatives-Cameroun. "To save lives, the government should immediately start implementing effective education programs to combat HIV/AIDS."

Cameroon is a party to the ICCPR. Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR, respectively, affirm the right to equal treatment and the right to equal protection before the law without discrimination. The UN Human Rights Committee, charged with authoritatively interpreting the ICCPR and monitoring states' compliance with its provisions, affirmed in its decision in Toonen v. Australia (1994) that sexual orientation is included in the protections against discrimination under articles 2 and 26.

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