|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Following a joint statement with Human Rights Watch (HRW), calling for the decriminalisation of consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex, Alternatives Cameroon, a gay rights organisation, says it has now chosen to use revendication rather than a confrontational approach, since attitudes towards homosexuality issues seem to be slowly changing in the country.
Steave Nemande, Director of Alternatives Cameroon, said over the past few months, they have seen a slight improvement in the way the media are reporting on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues and how stakeholders are engaging with LGBTI organizations.
In their statement, Nemande said they were surprised by the fact that many radio and newspaper passed the message of decriminalisisng homosexuality on and “We felt that there was an improvement in their coverage which was more unbiased, and journalists seemed more informed and professional in their reporting.”
Nemande added “Two weeks ago we had a meeting organised by US Aids on the impact of HIV by 2020. I was very delighted to be approached by a parliamentarian who introduced herself and reminded me that we met at the last HIV and Aids Conference in Vienna and was happy to discuss with me. We also have contact at the National Council Against Aids (NACC), and the Department of Justice. All those people showed great willingness to work with us.”
Nemande revealed that in November last year, they had already set up a petition calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality and said that might possibly have helped in changing mindsets.
“This initiative really helped to open people’s minds on this issue. We organised a press conference, had talks with journalists and the general public. We also realized that there was a need for journalists and the population to be more informed on LGBTI issues”, he explained.
In a statement Alternatives Cameroon and Human Rights Watch 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).
“By implementing this recommendation, Cameroon would do the bare minimum to realise the fundamental human rights enshrined in its national constitution,” said Nemande adding, “to save lives, the government should immediately start implementing effective education programs to combat HIV and AIDS.”
Boris Dittrich, Advocacy Director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch said Cameroon should guarantee lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people the same rights as every other citizens.
“There is no reason why anyone in Cameroon should live in fear of prosecution and abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity”, she concluded.