Two women charged with homosexuality in the west central African nation of Cameroon are scheduled to go on trial Thursday, according to reports from advocacy groups.
All Out, a grassroots, international LGBT rights group, reports that the two women, referred to on the organization’s website only by their first names, Esther and Pascaline, were arrested last month in the small town of Ambam in Cameroon’s southern region. According to All Out, the women were turned in by an unidentified man who “denounced” the pair for their sexual orientation and were castigated by local residents as “witches [who] deserve death.”
The upcoming trial comes a week after a court decision to delay the appeal hearing of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, a Cameroonian man who was sentenced to three years in prison for sending “gay text messages” and has been reportedly sexually assaulted during his imprisonment.
Both cases are represented by Alice Nkom (pictured), one of the few attorneys working on behalf of gays in a country where charges of same-sex relationships can carry a penalty of up to five years. Human rights groups including Amnesty International have called on the Cameroonian government to drop all laws criminalizing homosexuality. Meanwhile, other African countries including Liberia and Nigeria have moved in recent months to strengthen, not weaken, such laws.
It's not clear whether the U.S. State Department, which has taken an affirmative position supporting global LGBT rights, will send American embassy diplomats to the trial, as it sometimes does in such cases.
Via Council for Global Equality:
Even before a case goes to court, embassy personnel may inquire into the conditions of individuals being held in detention or, in some places, seek to meet individually with those being detained both before and after trial. In Malawi, for example, the U.S. embassy sent observers to monitor the trial of a young couple accused of violating the country’s criminal prohibitions against homosexuality. In the case of the recent murder of human rights defender David Kato in Uganda, the U.S. embassy also sent diplomats to observe the court proceedings against his alleged attacker. … The presence of U.S. and other foreign diplomats as observers in important court cases increases media attention and it puts the host government on notice that other governments are watching the case and that the outcome could impact bilateral relations.
All Out is currently raising money for Esther and Pascaline’s legal fees (click here for more info).