On International Human Rights Day, read Junior's story about persecution and torture on the basis of his sexual orientation.
One year ago, in Cameroon, I was the victim of persecution and torture on the basis of my sexual orientation and eventually I fled my home country and sought asylum in the USA.
Life as a gay man had become increasingly difficult. Although we don’t actually get chased by the Cameroonian government itself, we are at the mercy of anybody and don’t get protected when harassed.
I had been bashed up previously, but my claim to seek justice was turned back on me, with my life being scrutinised – and much was made of the fact that I was a bachelor and that I frequently hosted a European guy. There is actually no way to defend yourself when the law calls you a criminal. And it’s made worse when you can be arrested and jailed on allegations with no real tangible evidence.
Then three weeks prior to my decision to leave Cameroon, I was arrested. Even though I managed to get out of custody with the help of relatives and friends, I didn’t feel secure anymore and it was in common agreement with loved ones that I flew out of the country.
Apart from my regular job, I was also volunteering at an HIV and gay rights organisation and I was responsible for the youth mentoring programme.
One night I had been sitting on the carpet at my apartment watching one of my favorite TV shows when the police showed up and arrested me accusing me of homosexuality and of influencing the sexual behavior of a young 18-year-old man, who was one of my mentees. His family had found text messages between the young man and his male lover, and I was the person they blamed for his choice of relationship. Unluckily for me he was from a powerful family, so the police took me away and made sure they had informed my neighbors that I was gay.
We got to the police station around 9pm where I was left in my underpants and thrown in the cell with other inmates who had been informed that I was gay and told to watch out having me in their cell. My family and friends from the organisation battled to get in contact with the police commissioner who asked them to come meet him the following day.
My night in the cell is not one I will easily forget: I was asked to impersonate a famous female singer with my underpants twisted in my butt crack, I did a little bit, but then I rebelled and refused to do it again. I was physically threatened with my arms twisted up my back. I cried and heard policemen shout at me to defend myself like a man and to stop being a pussy. Eventually, when the inmates noticed I would not do anything else to entertain them despite all the torture in the world, they gave me some rest and started questioning me on the reasons of my choices.
The next morning the humiliation started again as I was forced to clean the police station in my pants in the middle of mockery and insults.
Forced to flee and seek asylum
My relatives and friends met with the commissioner and were informed the only charge on me was homosexuality because when interviewed the young man who I mentored did not confirm his parents’ accusations. I was released in exchange for XAF 300,000 (around US$490).
The accusing family found out I had been released, and used their powerful to take the case to a higher police authority. Then began a game of hide and seek. The police visited my apartment two times, they visited my sister and also visited the office of the HIV organisation during the two weeks between my release and my departure from the country.
Since arriving in the USA, I have been volunteering with local gay organisations while awaiting the decision on my asylum case. Though I am not persecuted here, life is lonely.
In Cameroon I had a life, but I lost it. I am far from my loving and supportive family, far from my roots and from the activism that made me happy and fulfilled.
Read about Paradise or Persecution – a campaign launched by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance to raise awareness about more than 75 countries who criminalise same sex relationships.