Pondering the legality of homosexuality
Rev. Fimba Felix, Director of Evangelism and Missions for the Cameroon Baptist convention, says his heart sank when he heard US President Barack Obama’s stance on gay marriages. He was quick to say, however, that just because something is accepted in the West does not mean it should be accepted in Cameroon.
Rev Fimba says Cameroonians have a unique cultural heritage and identity which should not be given up just because we want to pick up Western values and culture.
"It’s disheartening how even a mistake in Europe is copied as a style in Africa,” he says.
Rev. Fimba says the Cameroon Baptist Convention is one of the oldest mainstream churches in Cameroon, and its stance against homosexuality will not change no matter who says homosexuality is acceptable. He says the church will never undermine the biblical institution of marriage.
An evangelical rector based in Cameroon Jean-Blaise Kenmogne has come out in defense of LGBT rights. With Christians leading the campaign against homosexuality in Africa, pastor Jean-Blaise Kenmogne’s pro-gay stance is cause for many debates.
In a recent interview with Haman Mana, the editor of the Cameroonian daily, Le Jour, published as part of a book on the church and human rights, Kenmogne tackles some of the most common homophobic misconceptions in Cameroon.
The pastor spoke against the prevalent opinion in the country that sees HIV and AIDS as a "plague" that rightfully punishes sinful gays.
"Is this how it should treat human beings? That’s the question I asked myself and propelled me to answer 'no, no, no,' categorically 'no'," he exclaimed.
He countered the often-discussed view that "homosexuality is from Western culture and not African", citing contemporary sociologists like Charles Gueboguo who maintains that "homosexuality has always existed and continues to exist in Africa".
Rev. Fimba challenges this argument, stating that as one who has also studied culture and anthropology in Africa, it is not correct to say homosexuality is African.
“Homosexuality is a foreign concept. What is African is polygamy. I am not saying polygamy is justified, but that is what is peculiar (as opposed to homosexuality) to our culture especially here in Cameroon,” Rev. Fimba says.
Kenmogne also said that homosexuality involves a relationship between two people of the same sex who consent in it: "So there is no injury or complainant, or prejudice to either party." Kenmogne however said that gay marriages pose a major question on the role of the family.
CAMEROON'S LAWS ON HOMOSEXUALITY
Article 347 of the Cameroon Penal Code criminalizes sexual contact between members of the same sex with a penalty of six months to five years in prison and a fine of CFA francs 20,000 to 200,000.
If the prohibited acts are carried out with a minor of sixteen to twenty-one years of age, the penalties are doubled. Homosexual acts both between men and between women are illegal in Cameroon, and the country has been urged over time to change its laws criminalizing gay relationships.
Amnesty International in March 2012 said laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships must be repealed by the Cameroonian government. Amnesty International also called for the release of those currently in prison for homosexuality.