A posed portrait of 37 year old Yves Serges.  Early one morning in January 2011, Yves Serge was asleep in his room. He was awoken by the voice of his cousin. He looked out the window to see his cousin surrounded by around 15 men. He was crying. Yves opened the door, when he did so the men rushed inside. They dragged him out, put him on the back of a motorbike and drove into the night. He had no idea where his kidnappers were taking him. They stopped at a cross-road, pulled him off the bike, stripped him, and started beating him all over his body with planks of wood. He was forced to sit on an empty beer bottle so that it entered his rectum. They continued to beat him. They started interrogating him, “you are a faggot, tell us who you have sex with and where we can find them?” Yves refused to answer. The kidnappers piled three large truck tires and made Yves to go inside of them. They came up to the height of his chest. They took petrol from their motorbikes and poured it over his head and body. They wanted to burn Yves alive. At that moment, people from Yves neighborhood arrived. The details of what happened next are not clear to Yves, he was semi-conscious and overwhelmed by fear. He does know though that some of his family members saved him from the lynching. While Yves has recovered physically, the experience has left him deeply traumatized. He is constantly reminded of the night, he is deeply afraid of the return of his kidnappers and has difficulty making relationships now. Douala, 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

Yves Serges /

“It is with great sadness that I have to renew my story on this piece of paper, hoping that by speaking one day I’ll find a favorable outcome for me, my acquaintances and to other people. Even if only for this tragedy not to happen to them.

It was then that on January 28, 2011, I experienced the tragedy that haunts my mind, for me that day was the end but God does not sleep.
It was 2am when I believed I was opening the door to my alarmed and topless cousin of about 20 years old, silly of me because about fifteen motorized boys averaging 20 to 30 years old broke in my apartment in Bonabéri, an industrial suburb of the Coast. Dragging me by force, they brought me with them in a nearby neighborhood. They seriously beat us while asking us to confess our homosexuality and to lead them to our accomplices, given my resistance, it’s around 4am, after all forms of torture meaning having to sit on a beer bottle and making it enter the anus or making love in front of them. Still, despite my resistance to denounce, they judged it was time to take the next step which was to burn me alive in big trucks wheels that were in this intersection, no sooner said than done, that’s when I found myself in these wheels naked, they removed the fuel from a motorcycle and poured it on me.

It’s when they wanted to lit the fire that they were interrupted by the guards in my neighborhood, who immediately after being alerted came on site. They objected to it for a long time, several approaches have even been undertaken, my cousin was released a little before me. As for me, it’s around 7am that my family retrieved, I can even say, that molested body for the hospital, and as if that was not enough, they went to my apartment looting and threatening to burn the house if my family didn’t moved in the shortest possible time, I even went out of town to go to a village in order to regain my health for 6 months.

It’s when I came back to town, thanks to my association where I am an activist, that I now have regain a taste for life, in spite of, the fact that after three years, I still see the same scenario play in my head, even the noise of a bike makes me deeply scared, or when I meet someone who says has seen me in Bonaberi.

While hoping that one day it will go, I’d like to change and share my experiences with those who want to be able to banish homophobia.”

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