John M. Becker

Cameroon Man Jailed for Gay Text Message Dies

Filed By John M. Becker | January 13, 2014 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Africa, Alice Nkom, Born This Way, Cameroon, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé

alley.jpgA 34-year-old Cameroonian man who was jailed in 2011 for sending a text message that said "I am very much in love with you" to another man has died from complications of a hernia that he developed in prison.

After developing the hernia, the AP reports that Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé was granted a provisional release from prison on medical grounds in July 2012. He went into hiding, but then sought treatment in a hospital.

Mbédé's family removed him from the hospital about a month ago. "[They] said he was a curse for them and that we should let him die," noted human rights lawyer Alice Nkom said.

Lambert Lamba, an LGBT rights activist in Cameroon who saw Mbédé after he left the hospital, told the AP that the man's family refused to give him any medical treatment during that time:

"His family said they were going to remove the homosexuality which is in him. I went to see him in his village. He could not stand up, he couldn't speak."

Mbédé died Friday.

From the AP report:

"I accuse the state," said Nkom, the most prominent of a small group of lawyers in Cameroon willing to defend suspects charged with violating Cameroon's anti-gay law. "If there had not been criminalization of homosexuality, he would not have gone to prison and his life would not be over. His life was finished as soon as he went to prison."

Indeed, the west-central African nation of Cameroon is the country that makes the most arrests every year for the "crime" of homosexuality. According to Amnesty International, people are regularly arrested for homosexuality on the basis of rumor and innuendo, and they are "usually arrested, charged, and sentenced" without any evidence whatsoever. Very few lawyers are willing to advocate on their behalf, and the ones that do receive frequent death threats.

The documentary Born this Way, released last year by filmmakers Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann, presents a snapshot of the lives of gays and lesbians in Cameroon. A trailer for the documentary and a link to Bilerico's report on the film is after the jump.

Read Bilerico's full report here.

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