Amnesty International Urges Cameroon to Release Men Charged with Being Gay
Amnesty International is calling for the release of two Cameroonian men who have been sentenced to five years in prison for alleged homosexuality. A third man was sentenced without being present after jumping bail. The men were arrested in July after police alleged they were caught in a sexual act in a car.
"The Yaounde court must overturn this shocking sentence, which punishes these three men solely on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation," Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's director for Africa, said in a statement. "People accused of such crimes in Cameroon often face abuse and violence from other detainees or prison officers in detention. The two men must be released immediately and the Cameroonian authorities must repeal the country's discriminatory anti-homosexuality laws."
In addition to prison time, each man was fined 200,000 CFA francs—the equivalent of $400. Homosexuality is currently illegal in the African country, and Amnesty International reports that at least ten others have been arrested under the discriminatory anti-gay laws in the past year.
Bill Banning Homosexual Relationships Passes Nigerian Senate
Gay Life reported in the Nov. 25 issue on Nigeria's kiss-in protest against a bill that would criminalize same-sex relationships. The legislation, called the "Same-Gender Marriage" bill passed the Senate on Nov. 29. It now goes to House of Representatives for approval, after which it will be sent to the president. The language of the bill not only makes it illegal to be in a relationship with someone of the same gender, but also punished those who "witness," "aid," or "abet" such relationships. Amnesty International is speaking out against the bill, and calling for members of the House to kill it. In addition to the potential human rights impacts, the human rights organization is concerned that passage of the legislation will result in LGBT people with HIV, who already suffer stigma for their identity or consensual sexual behavior, will be pushed further underground.
Elections in New Zealand Big Win for LGBTI Community
The general election in New Zealand has been a boon for LGBT candidates after seven were elected to Parliament. Five of the seven are incumbents, and according to GayNZ.com, are extremely highly placed in their parties. One is set to become deputy leader of the Labour Party. GayNZ.com reports that while the candidates were not elected to represent the LGBTI community, their very presence in the house increases the likelihood that LGBTI issues will be taken more seriously. Additionally, their visibility "sends out a reaffirming message to LGBTI New Zealanders from Kaitaia to Oban, and a rebuff to homophobes everywhere."
Pakistan Text Message Ban Includes LGBT Words
On November 14, the Pakistani Telecommunication Authority put out a list of 1,600 words and phrases considered to be obscene, and mandated that phone companies block them in text messages. The list of "dirty" words ranges from mild words like "fart" and "idiot," to words that directly impact LGBT rights. "Lesbian," "homosexual," "fairy," and "condom" are now considered "pornographic or offensive" to Islam, the Huffington Post reports. If phone companies do not cooperate in censoring the 1,600 words, they will be subject to legal action. While homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in Pakistan's penal code, under Islamic laws in Pakistan, homosexual acts are punishable by whipping, imprisonment, or death, according to the United Nations.