You‘d think that all governments could agree that killing, raping or assaulting someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is never acceptable – even in countries that ban same-sex conduct, or claim LGBTI rights offend their “traditional values.”
But some governments refuse to condemn violence against LGBTI people, effectively giving the green light to anti-gay thugs.
When the United Nations Human Rights Council last evaluated Cameroon’s record in 2009 as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – a system for assessing human rights progress – Cameroon rejected a recommendation to “establish effective protection of homosexuals against discrimination and attacks.”
On September 20, Cameroon will need to respond to a new set of UPR recommendations. Yesterday, 12 human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, sent a letter to President Paul Biya and the government of Cameroon, calling on them to accept recommendations on preventing homophobic and transphobic violence, holding attackers accountable, and ensuring protection for human rights defenders who work with LGBTI people.
By doing so, Cameroon would add its voice to a growing chorus that condemns anti-gay violence. In 2011 a Human Rights Council resolution called for a study of violence and discrimination against LGBT people. The ensuing report noted shocking levels of violence. Catherine Dupe Atoki, chair of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, publicly condemned homophobic violence in May 2013.
Homophobia is of particular concern in Cameroon. LGBTI rights defender Eric Ohena Lembembe was brutally murdered in July. Lawyers and other activists regularly receive death threats. Police investigations are inadequate and sometimes nonexistent. Shamefully, unlike governments in Jamaica and Haiti that have publicly denounced recent hate crimes, the Cameroonian government said nothing about Lembembe’s death.
It’s time to change tracks. At the UPR, Cameroon should show it is not indifferent to the suffering of LGBTI people.