A posed portrait of 41 year old Marc Lambert Lamba. In May 2005 Marc was arrested at a bar in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde along with nearly 40 others. Many were able to bribe their way out of the police station, the remaining 11, of which Lambert was one, were put in prison. They spent 12 months awaiting trial. In the end seven of the 11 were charged with the crime of homosexuality and sentenced to seven months in prison. They had already served their time awaiting trial so were released. Lambert says,  “it was a nightmare for me but I transformed this nightmare into an opportunity – it gave me the chance to denounce to the international community the situation of discrimination against people in my country for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Thanks to that a LGBT movement was born in Cameroon”. Lambert took the Cameroonian Government to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at The United Nations and won his case. The Cameroonian Government ignored the verdict. Yaounde, Cameroon. December 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Lambert /

“My arrest and my incarceration was a real nightmare for me and for my life. Since that day, humiliation, shame, contempt, insults and other evils are part of my daily life.

Even after my release, my situation has turned into torment in my family, the neighborhood, at work. I do not participate in any family events (death, marriage, meetings…) nor in the neighborhood. Actually, I had opened a bar (beverage sales) but the neighbors came, fifty people, molested customers, broke bottles, crates and everything else and tried to set fire to the building. Since my release, I never had a job, and if I did just for the time until my employer was informed about my situation. Even to legalize the association for which I am the founder, the receipt of declaration had to be signed by another member because I was a bad omen.

Since my release from prison I live from the few workshops I am invited to, except for the PAEMH project that lasted two years. My only recourse is alcohol because we do not have a psychologist in the association.
A family came to threaten my family and a bottle was broken over my head because I had given 100 FCFA to their 8-year-old son who told me that he was hungry. I continue to survive in the hope that one day the LGBTIQ rights will be recognized and finally respected but until then I use the strengths that remain in me to prevent that my peers go through the same experience as me.”

Share this story:Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twittershare on TumblrEmail to someone