Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Cameroon's "World Day Against Homosexuality"

The Cameroonian Youth Rally (Rassemblement de la Jeunesse Camerounaise or RJC) chose August 21st as Cameroon's "World Day Against Homosexuality". According to Gaystar News and Identity Kenya, August 21st marks the anniversary of the murder of Narcisse Olivier Djomo Pokam, whom the RJC alleged was murdered by gays in 2006. Identity Kenya quotes the RJC as defending its anti-gay stance as a reflection of “the law of the Republic of Cameroon, the Holy Bible, the need to preserve the human species."

Cameroon's Catholic archbishop has recently added fuel to Cameroon's homophobic fires. According to Bikyamasr, Archbishop of Yaoundé Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot claimed that homosexuality is “opposed to the idea of human reproduction” and “shameful, a disrespectful criticism of God who has chosen to create man and woman.”

Fortunately, observers have frowned on RJC's efforts. For example, LGBTQ rights group AllOut has called on Cameroon president Paul Biya to condemn the event and decriminalize homosexuality, according to Pink News.

76 Crimes quotes Jules Eloundou, president of Humanity First Cameroon, as casting doubt on the RJC's Biblical pretensions. “I doubt very much that this group’s spokesman is familiar with the Bible that he brandished as he described his fight against homosexuality,” Eloundou said, adding that RJC spokesman Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka “knows little about African cultures, the laws of the Republic and even less about homosexuality”. 76 Crimes also quotes Marc Lambert Lamba, a Humanity First Cameroon supporter, as saying that religion promotes peace and love, "not hatred, barbarism and war."

Gaystar News quotes Alice N'Kom, a pro-LGBTQ Cameroonian attorney, as arguing that homophobia does not reflect African values. "These anti-gay proponents say they are protecting our “traditional values.” But we want to tell them that hate and homophobia are not African values," she said. N'Kom has spoken out before against homophobia in Cameroon, lamenting the violence and imprisonment endured by gays or those suspected of being gay.

Sadly, this is not the first time the Cameroonian Youth Rally has promoted homophobia. According to Human Rights Watch, a representative of the RJC arrived with a group of men at an human rights workshop in Yaoundé in April. The workshop, organized by three groups -- Adolescents against AIDS, Association pour la Défense de Homosexuel-le-s, and Collective des Familles des Enfants Homosexuel-le-s -- was scheduled to discuss LGBTQ human rights. Human Rights Watch reports that the RJC representative demanded that attendees leave the meeting, after which police and civilian authorities dispersed those in attendance. Activist Stéphane Koche was arrested, detained for several hours, and eventually released without charge. Furthermore, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) reports that a Yaoundé gathering on May 19th to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia was met with vicious beatings and robberies by local thugs.

The RJC's "World Day Against Homosexuality" comes against a backdrop of virulent homophobia in Cameroon. According to Gaystar News, section 347 of Cameroon's penal code criminalizes same-sex sexual activity with prison terms and fines. Amnesty International lists Cameroon among countries with particularly egregious treatment of LGBTQ persons, while a 2010 Human Rights Watch report describes Cameroon's homophobic violence and persecution. IGLA has monitored arrests of LGBTQ persons in Cameroon and legal developments that further disadvantage LGBTQs.

"World Day Against Homosexuality", undergirded by a toxic interpretation of the Bible, serves as another reminder of the dangers of religious homophobia. Bigotry, fueled by religious fundamentalism, has heaped suffering onto Cameroon's LGBTQ community. As the Cameroonian LGBTQ community and its allies struggle for their human rights, we must remember that nothing short of worldwide equality for LGBTQ persons will do.


  1. This sounds a little too much like the "Hitler Youth" (or whatever they were called.) Anyway, indoctrinating young people isn't new, nor is that stale argument about God creating "men and women." Very disturbing.

    1. Donna -- Their arguments are definitely stale and hollow, but sadly that doesn't stop them from preaching them again and again. It must be a chilling time to be LGBTQ in Cameroon.


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