Most of us do it everyday without thinking. Tell that someone special we love them. But do it in Cameroon and you could end-up in gaol.
That’s what happened to Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, who was sentenced to 3-years in prison in 2011 for sending another man an SMS that read:
“I’m very much in love w/u.”
Mbédé was detained by Cameroon’s Secretary of State for Defense (SED) on “suspicion of homosexuality.”
He was formally charged with “homosexuality and attempted homosexuality” on March 9th, 2011.
He was then tried and on April 28th, 2011, Mbédé was found guilty on both charges and sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment at Kondengui Central Prison.
His sentencing was condemned by Human Rights Watch, who described it as “a gross violation of Mbede’s rights to freedom of expression and equality.”
In 2011, 14 people were prosecuted for homosexuality, 12 were convicted.
Roger’s 3-year conviction led to a campaign by Amnesty International and Rights activists, which saw Roger provisionally released on bail in July 2012, on health grounds. However, an appeals court upheld the 3-year sentence against Roger.
All Out is running a campaign to help release Roger from jail:
Roger still has to serve 2 more years in jail under horrible conditions, but Cameroon’s President Biya could free Roger from this sentence and end the anti-gay laws that jailed him in the first place. Biya has made statements that could indicate he’s evolving ont his issue and he knows that Cameroon’s reputation is at stake.
All Out have started a petition to President Biya, and Justice Laurent Esso which reads:
TO: PRESIDENT BIYA AND MINISTER OF JUSTICE LAURENT ESSO
We call on you to free Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, who was jailed for sending a text message, and to place a moratorium on Cameroon’s discriminatory anti-gay laws.
These laws deny basic human rights to many Cameronians like Roger and create an environment of hostility and fear. End the use of laws that make it a crime to love who you choose and encourage their permanent repeal.