By Andrea Landis,
International News Writer
Cameroonian lawyer, Alice Nkom is being recognized with an award from the German branch of Amnesty International for her work promoting gay rights in Africa.
She was in Berlin on March 18 to accept the human rights award. In 1969, Nkom was the first black woman lawyer to be called to the bar in Cameroon.
Nkom has had to endure threats from both citizens and the government. Possible fear of harm for Nkom ranges from imprisonment to death threats.
Despite the challenges, for the past decade the 69-year-old lawyer has been defending the rights of homosexuals in Africa. She has been able to make some progress in breaking the taboo of being gay or lesbian, but daily life for individuals remains to be difficult.
Nkom is also calling on Europe and Western nations to help fight the discrimination of homosexuals in Africa.
Since 1972, homosexuality has been illegal in Cameroon carrying a prison sentence of five years. Even just suspicion of someone being gay can be enough on judicial grounds to prosecute them. People in Cameroon still remain hostile to those that are gay or lesbian.
Nkom considers the treatment of gays in Cameroon to be similar to apartheid saying, “When a country uses weapons, the police and all available legal and prison means against a section of its population, while it has a commitment to protect.”
Her comment came just a few weeks after Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda, signed a bill into effect which gives a fourteen year jail term and possibly life imprisonment for homosexual offences.
Currently, 36 Africa countries consider relations between same-sex couples to be illegal. Africa also has the toughest punishments for homosexual acts which include the death penalty in South Sudan and Mauritania as well as parts of Nigeria and Somalia.
In addition to her working in Camaroon as a lawyer, Nkom is also the chair of the Association of Defense of Homosexuals (ADEFHO), an international gay and lesbian association which provides medical aid and psychological help.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Mar. 25 print edition.
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