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Cameroon: Church manipulates public opinion on homosexuality

Sunday 26 July 2009, by siawi

Source: Behind the Mask

Gay rights organisations in Cameroon have accused the country’s Catholic Church and the media of deliberately causing confusion about the Maputo Protocol with the intention to influence the public to have negative attitudes towards homosexuality. This comes after Cameroonian President Paul Biya ratified the Maputo Protocol, known in full as, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights of Women in Africa, during the sixth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol on 11 July this year. Reports say more than 20,000 people marched against Article 14, clause 2 (C) of this protocol which legalises medical abortion. Many, partitularly religious leaders, are against Article 14 as they say it also legalises homosexuality. The media also confirmed on several reports that the protocol legalises homosexuality.

However both gay rights organizations, Alternatives Cameroon and Association pour la Defense de l’Homosexualitè (ADEFHO) say there is no link between the ratification of this protocol and the possible legalisation of homosexuality in a near future. Steave Nemande, President of Alternatives Cameroon, said this is a deliberate manipulation of the public’s opinion since nowhere in the protocol is homosexuality mentioned. “Not only is there an amalgam but also manipulation from the church”, said Nemande who also denounced a particular newspaper saying “it visibly does not understand that human rights apply to everybody.”

Concurring with Nemande, Sebastien Mandeng of ADEFHO Cameroon said “This is part of the crusade launched by the Catholic Church and a particular press against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgeder and intersex community (LGBTI) community. He added “They knew that by denouncing homosexuality they would attract more people to their protest” he said. Mandeng further pointed out that the church attacks Article 14 of the protocol but “what they don’t say is that the section 339 of the Cameroonian Penal Code authorises women to have abortion under certain conditions since 1965”, he further explained.

ADEFHO and Alternatives Cameroon have launched a broad campaign in the media in order to re-define the terms of the Protocol of Maputo and clear doubts about legalisation of homosexuality. “The aim of our campaign is to inform citizens and give them the right information. So far we have good responses and even the national newspaper has published our statement”, Nemande said. In a joint statement issued on the 19 April 2007, African bishops said that legalization of medical abortion and the right to choose any method of contraception are particularly “incompatible with the principles of the Catholic Church, its tradition and its practices.”

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol, guarantees comprehensive rights to women including the right to take part in the political process, to social and political equality with men, to control of their reproductive health, and to end female genital mutilation. It was adopted by the African Union in the form of a protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Mozambique on 11 July 2003.