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'Born This Way' Documents Fierce Oppression of Underground LGBT Community in Cameroon: VIDEO

Bornthisway

Wtih regard to the recent brutal killing of Cameroonian gay rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe, Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann are the filmmakers behind Born This Way, a documentary about the underground LGBT community in Cameroon which is now on the festival circuit.

Btw2They provided this statement to Towleroad regarding Lembembe's death:

“We spent nearly three months in Cameroon shooting Born This Way, a documentary about the underground LGBT movement there. We were overwhelmed by the power of the love and courage of those who fight for justice in Cameroon, and the film aims to communicate this. While we never met Eric Lembembe, Yves Yomb and several other heroic activists are featured. Cameroon has consistently been the most egregious violator of rights of gay and lesbian people in the world, imprisoning more people for their perceived sexual orientation than anywhere on the planet.

Gertrude Metsiegoum, also featured in the film, is currently in San Francisco as part of the film tour. Our hearts go out to her and all of our friends in Cameroon. The time for change is now, before more lives are lost. This tragedy will not stop the fight for LGBT rights in Cameroon”

Watch the film's trailer, AFTER THE JUMP...

Btw3They add, of the film:

LGBT right supporters and out homosexuals in Cameroon have come under a series of attacks in recent weeks. On June 26th, assailants set fire to the Alternatives-Cameroun (featured in the film) office in Douala. On June 16th, assailants broke into the Yaoundé office of a prominent human rights lawyer, Michel Togué, stealing confidential information.

On June 1, a burglary took place at the Douala headquarters of the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC). The two most recent attacks targeted groups supporting the rights of LGBTI people, leading activists to attribute homophobic motives to the perpetrators. Born This Way is not only an eye-opening work of art, but also a key component of a global campaign to raise awareness about an unjust, anachronistic law and the compromised legal system that enforces it. Lyrical imagery, devastating homophobia, glimpses of American culture and a hidden-camera courtroom drama coalesce into a story of what is possible in the global fight for equality.

Find the film's website here. It will be screening next Saturday as part of Houston's QFest.

The U.S. State Department just released a statement on Lembembe's death. Find it here.

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U.S. State Dept: We Condemn the Murder of Cameroonian Gay Rights Activist Eric Ohena Lembembe

Yesterday, Towleroad reported that Eric Ohena Lembembe, a prominent gay rights activist in Cameroon, was found dead at his home after being brutally tortured.

LembembeThe U.S. State Department has now released a statement about Lembembe's death. It comes from Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf:

We deplore the brutal murder of Eric Ohena Lembembe, who was found tortured to death in his home in Yaoundé yesterday. We condemn this terrible act in the strongest terms and urge the Cameroonian authorities to thoroughly and promptly investigate and prosecute those responsible for his death.

Eric Ohena Lembembe was the Executive Director of Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), an organization dedicated to the fight against AIDS and for the human rights of LGBT people in Cameroon. Just two weeks ago, Mr. Lembembe spoke out against the recent break-ins at the offices of groups advocating for gay rights. The local office of one organization, Alternatives-Cameroun, was set on fire on June 26th.

The United States actively promotes respect for the human rights of all people, including LGBT individuals, in Cameroon and around the world. We will continue to support activists, like Mr. Lembembe, who stand up for the human rights of all people, regardless of who they are or who they love.

Human Rights Watch's Neela Shoshal spoke with Radio France International about Lembembe, with whom she closely worked. Listen below:


Prominent Gay Rights Activist in Cameroon Found Dead, Tortured

Human Rights Watch reports that Eric Ohena Lembembe, a gay rights activist and journalist, was found dead at his home on July 15 in Yaoundé, Cameroon. He had been brutally tortured:

LembembeLembembe’s friends discovered his body on Monday evening after being unable to reach him by telephone for two days, and went to his home. They found his front door padlocked on the outside, but could see Lembembe’s body lying on his bed through the window. Lembembe’s friends alerted the police, who broke down the door. According to one friend, Lembembe’s neck and feet appeared to have been broken, and his face, hands, and feet had been burned with an iron.

Lembembe was one of Cameroon’s most prominent LGBTI rights activists. On behalf of CAMFAIDS, he collaborated closely with Human Rights Watch and two other Cameroonian organizations, Alternatives-Cameroun and the Association for the Defense of Homosexuals (ADEFHO), in researching and launching a March 2013 report on prosecutions for consensual same-sex conduct. He also participated in drafting a submission for Cameroon’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2013 at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Lembembe was also a contributor to the blog “Erasing 76 Crimes” and authored several chapters in a book on LGBTI rights around the world, From Wrongs to Gay Rights. His organization assiduously documented arrests, violence, and blackmail against LGBTI people in Cameroon.

The group adds that Lembembe's murder has been preceded by a number of attacks, unchecked by the government, on LGBT and human rights organizations:

Lembembe’s killing follows several attacks on the offices of human rights defenders, including those working for equal rights for LGBTI people. On June 26, 2013, unidentified assailants burned down the Douala headquarters of Alternatives-Cameroun, which provides HIV services to LGBTI people. A few days earlier on June 16, the Yaoundé office of human rights lawyer Michel Togué, who represents clients charged with same-sex conduct, was burgled, and his legal files and laptop stolen. Both Togué and Alice Nkom, another lawyer who represents LGBTI clients, have received repeated death threats by email and SMS, including threats to kill their children. Although activists have reported all of these incidents, the Cameroonian authorities have not apprehended a single suspect.

HRW is urging authorities to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation.

Lembembe contributed to the blog 76 Crimes, which notes that one of its most popular articles was "What traditional African homosexuality learned from the West".

They add:

That article is included in the book From Wrongs to Gay Rights, along with his articles about Roger Mbede, who was imprisoned because of an amorous text message to a man; Franky Djome and Jonas Kumie, who were imprisoned because they are a transgender couple; anti-gay blackmailer/extortioner Albert Edward Ekobo Samba; and the homophobic attack on last year’s IDAHO celebration in Yaoundé.

He formerly worked as a writer and editor for the monthly Tribune du Citoyen in Cameroon.


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1NewsIcon A Cameroonian lawyer vilified for defending gay and lesbians activists has fled to the United States and is seeking asylum: "The threats against Togue that began in Cameroon have not stopped on US soil, where he continues to be subjected to menacing phone calls and text messages. 'They say they are going to kidnap my children, that they'll turn them into queers. I feel very vulnerable,' he said. His family has been in the United States since November, and he joined them in January."

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Cameroon Court Upholds Three Year Sentence for Gay Man Jailed for Texting 'I'm Very Much in Love w/u' to Another Man

Back in September, Brandon posted about  Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, a Cameroonian man jailed for texting a man a photo of himself holding a sign which read "I'm very much in love w/u."

MbedeMbede has since been incarcerated in Kondengui Central Prison.

In September, Representatives from Alternatives Cameroon visited Mbede in Kondengui, where they found him in "deplorable" moral and physical health:

Suffering at the time with his left eye and without treatment or medications. He told us he slept on the ground since his imprisonment, and abandoned by most of his family members who regard him as a wizard.

Today, a Cameroonian court upheld his conviction for homosexual conduct, the AP reports:

The Court of Appeal ruled early Monday that Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, 32, must serve out his three-year jail term. He was provisionally released on bail in July after spending a year and a half behind bars. Mbede told The Associated Press he's not sure he can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment he faced from fellow inmates and prison authorities.

Gay rights activists say the upheld sentence marks yet another setback for gays and lesbians in Cameroon, widely viewed as the most repressive in Africa when it comes to prosecuting same-sex couples.

The activist group AllOut has an ongoing petition to free Mbede, which can be found here.


Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, Jailed For A Text

Mdebe"I'm very much in love w/u." So read the text message that Cameroonian Roger Jean-Claude Mbede sent to another man last year, and which landed him in Kondengui Central Prison, where he remains still. In Cameroon, homosexual acts are punishable with up to five years in prison. For his text message, Mbede has been sentenced to three.

Representatives from Alternatives Cameroon visited Mbede in Kondengui, where they found him in "deplorable" moral and physical health:

Suffering at the time with his left eye and without treatment or medications. He told us he slept on the ground since his imprisonment, and abandoned by most of his family members who regard him as a wizard.

Mbede has an appeals hearing tomorrow, and could be released. Or he could be returned to prison for another two years. There is currently a petition on AllOut.org calling for his emancipation, which has so far been signed by more than 80,000 people. You can sign it here. (Quickly, though. Cameroon is eight hours ahead of the American eastern coast.) 


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