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Op-ed: Russian Gays Aren't the Only LGBTs Suffering

Up in Africa's central-eastern vicinity is Cameroon, the home of gay rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe (shown at left) before he was tortured and killed two weeks ago. Lembembe was burned with an iron and had his feet broken before he was put out of his misery. Lembembe's death has further horrified other gay activists in the nation, where homosexuality is already criminalized. "We have all decided to stop our work in the field because our security is at risk," Yves Yomb, executive director of Alternatives-Cameroun, told The Guardian. "We have no protection from the police and we feel that our lives are at risk."

Cameroon is the nation that sentenced a man to jail for sending a text to another man, back in 2011. It's also the country that convicted two men of having sexual relations in a court ruling that came down a week ago. Cameroon's embassy is on International Drive, three miles north of the HRC.

Cameroon's neighbor Nigeria is also up to no good, passing a bill that would imprison people up to 14 years for entering into a same-sex union, even though gay marriage, and sex, is illegal there. Hoping to eradicate local LGBT advocacy, the bill would send those involved in gay clubs or organizations to jail for a decade. The legislation is sitting on the desk of Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria's embassy is near Cameroon's, and a stone's throw from a Gold's Gym and a Starbucks. Maybe someone can air their dissent after a workout or frapp?

It's true the recent horrors of Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and Nigeria, like similar ones in Uganda and Iran, are less visible than those in Russia; mostly because those poorer nations have fewer people with internet access or contacts at Buzzfeed or CNN. But are we less interested in the horrors of Africa and the Middle East because those places seem so foreign? Are we especially shocked by the injustices of Russia because it's happening in a place that kind of looks like America, perpetrated against people who could be extras in Girls (e.g., young and white)?

Gay Africans like Davis Mac-Iyalla, granted refugee status to the U.K. because his life was in danger in his native Nigeria, are begging Westerners to help his people. Appearing on the BBC, Mac-Iyalla asked United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay what the U.N. was doing to ensure Nigeria stay true to a nondiscrimination treaty. Pillay, while sympathetic, gave Nigerian viewers a British phone number to call if they had complaints about human rights violations. The U.N. can do more for our African brothers and sisters than this and we must demand they do. You can start here.

NEAL BROVERMAN is a columnist for The Advocate and the editor-in-chief of Out Traveler. Follow him on Twitter @nbroverman.


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