Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman issued the following statement regarding the sentencing of a gay man in Cameroon to three years in prison for texting a love note to another man.

“This action by the government of Cameroon should be roundly condemned by the international community. The demonization of gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals is a violation of fundamental human rights, and countries engaging in such reprehensible practices should be put on notice that the United States Congress is watching how they treat their LGBT populations.”

An article about the case appears below:

Gay Man’s 3-Year Sentence Upheld by Cameroon Court


Published: December 17, 2012

DOUALA, Cameroon (AP) — An appeals court in Cameroon on Monday upheld a three-year sentence against a man found guilty of homosexual conduct for sending a text message to another man saying, “I’m very much in love with you.”

Activists said the court’s ruling in Yaounde, the capital, was yet another setback for gay men and lesbians in Cameroon, widely viewed as the most repressive country in Africa when it comes to prosecuting same-sex couples.

The man, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, 32, had been provisionally released on bail in July after serving a year and a half in prison. His lawyer now has 10 days to file an appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.

Holding back tears on Monday, Mr. Mbede said he was not sure whether he could withstand more jail time given the conditions he faced there.

“I am going back to the dismal conditions that got me critically ill before I was temporarily released for medical reasons,” Mr. Mbede said. “I am not sure I can put up with the antigay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of my perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair.”

Mr. Mbede’s provisional release this year came after pressure from activists over his deteriorating health aggravated by malnutrition and repeated assaults.

Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries, and lawmakers in Liberia, Nigeria and Uganda have recently presented legislation that would strengthen antigay laws that are already on the books.

Even in those countries, prosecutions are rare or nonexistent, said Neela Ghoshal, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Cameroon’s penal code calls for sentences ranging from six months to five years for people found guilty of “sexual relations with a person of the same sex.” Last year, 14 people were prosecuted for homosexuality, and 12 were convicted, according to Justice Ministry records cited by Human Rights Watch.

“In most of these cases there is little or no evidence,” Ms. Ghoshal said. “Usually people are convicted on the basis of allegations or denunciations from people who have claimed to law enforcement officials that they are gay.”