A man who was particularly partial to sipping on Bailey’s Irish Cream has been imprisoned, after a Cameroon judge considered that the man’s favorite tipple was enough to convict him for the crime of “being a homosexual.”
Before we delve any deeper into the tawdry tapestry of this tale, it’s perhaps best to point out that that in Cameroon, having same sex relations remains illegal. If you’re gay and proud in the African country, you’ll end up with at best, a fine, and at worst, a prison term which can be anything up to five years. It’s been that way since 1972, and as a country, they don’t look likely to lift those Draconian laws anytime soon.
Something that Cameroonian lawyer Michel Togue is doing his hardest to rectify.
According to The Mirror, after defending dozens of people he claims were accused of homosexuality, Togue has finally decided to lift the lid on Cameroon’s farcical legal system. Mr. Togue has gone on record claiming that even though it remains illegal, hardly anyone convicted of being a homosexual is actually caught in the act of having sex.
The defense lawyer explains that once an accusation of homosexuality is made, police will gather bizarre evidence based on stereotypes to convict them. Togue uses the example of a former client, convicted of being a homosexual, because he was accused of having “feminine mannerisms”; in this particular case, according to the Independent, his client was convicted on the basis he drank Bailey’s Irish Cream, which the judge decided was a woman’s drink.
Michel Togue explained to Think Progress that disgruntled neighbors, family members, and even scorned lovers all use accusations of homosexuality against people they particularly dislike, points to examples like two women who have languished is jail for nine months, despite the only evidence of their homosexuality coming from statements made by neighbors.
He also highlights the case of three men who were arrested by police for allegedly having sex in a vehicle. The men denied the charge but they were convicted anyway.
The reason? They were dressed effeminately.
Togue also seeks to address the obvious contradictions in Cameroon’s law system.
“To catch people having sex, to catch them in the act, you have to break the law. You have to violate their privacy, which is an offense.”
“But the police will not focus on the offense of breaking the privacy of someone, but they will focus on the fact that they saw two people of the same gender having sex.”
Attorney Togue also believes the criminalization of homosexuality is having a negative effect on healthcare in Cameroon, particularly in regard to HIV testing.
“They can’t go to the hospital for the treatment or even for a test because they’re afraid.”
In 2012, former Cameroon archbishop Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot described homosexuality as a “shameful, a disrespectful criticism of God who has chosen to create man and woman.”
Earlier this year, a 69-year-old lawyer named Alice Nkom claimed Cameroon was suffering under an “anti-homosexual apartheid.”
Despite his constant campaigning, Michel Togue believes the ludicrous laws in his country, whereby a man can be imprisoned for drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream will not change anytime soon, as he believes most of the stigma around homosexuality is driven by religious sectors in the country.