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Opinionista

Persecution of homosexual, transgender people in Cameroon generates wave of refugees – including to SA

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Henry Wackam is a human rights defender for the LGBTQI+ community under attack in countries across Africa.

Gay and transgender people in Cameroon face alarming persecution due to discriminatory laws and social oppression. These conditions have forced more than 50 people to flee their home country in search of safety. This wave has spread around the world and South Africa has become one of the main host countries.

Rainbow Refuge – Africa was established in 2019. We envisage a world where LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers are fully acknowledged, accepted and protected within society. We strive for a future where LGBTQI+ individuals can live openly and safely, enjoy all human rights and freedoms, and can thrive socially, economically and personally. 

Rainbow Refuge – Africa is dedicated to the empowerment and support of LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers. We strive to alleviate the challenges faced by LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers, providing essential services, legal support and opportunities for economic empowerment.

Through our work, we aim to shape a future where LGBTQI+ refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, as well as displaced persons, are treated with respect, dignity and fairness, can live openly without fear and, in so doing, achieve their full potential.

This article sheds light on our concerns about the persecution suffered by LGBTQI+ people in Cameroon and examines the consequences of this reality on Cameroonian refugees in South Africa.

Article 347

In Cameroon, article 347 of the Penal Code criminalises homosexual relations, condemning them to up to five years in prison. 

This oppressive law is used to target, harass and persecute LGBTQI+ people, creating a climate of fear and oppression.

Read more here, here and here.

The victims of this persecution are often subjected to arbitrary arrests, physical and psychological violence, social discrimination and exclusion from their families and society in general. This untenable situation has pushed many LGBTQI+ Cameroonians to seek refuge and asylum in other countries.

Among the host countries for Cameroonian refugees, South Africa has become a haven for many LGBTQI+ people. The country is recognised for its progressive Constitution which guarantees equal rights and protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

This makes SA an attractive destination for those seeking to escape persecution and find a more inclusive environment.

However, Cameroonian refugees in South Africa – even though a land of refuge – continue to face significant challenges. Integration issues, language barriers, unemployment and stigma persist, often leading to further marginalisation and vulnerability. 

LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers face additional barriers due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, which can make it harder for them to access the support services and protection they need.

Raising awareness 

It is essential to raise awareness of the reality of the persecution of LGBTQI+ people in Cameroon and the challenges faced by Cameroonian refugees in South Africa. 

Awareness-raising efforts such as media campaigns, art exhibitions and community events are needed to promote empathy and solidarity towards refugees.

It is equally important to provide concrete support to Cameroonian LGBTQI+ refugees in South Africa. This includes access to psychosocial support, health, housing, education and employment services. 

Partnerships between local organisations, NGOs and government institutions can help provide these essential services and facilitate the integration of refugees into South African society.

This is necessary to enable them to rebuild their lives in an environment that is inclusive and respectful of their fundamental rights. A collective effort of awareness, advocacy and action is needed to end this persecution and to promote a more just and equal society for all, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. DM

Henry Wackam is the Director and Founder of Rainbow Refuge Africa.

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