Voices of Hope From Africa: Alice Nkom

Recently, Africa has become a hotbed for homophobic legislation, putting LGBT people and allies at great risk. But a growing number of prominent Africans are breathing fresh air into the debate that’s been stifled by personal judgments, narrow dogma, and hubris. Human Rights First’s factsheet, “African Voices for Equality,” highlights brave men and women who are taking a stand in countries where egregious intolerance and violence against LGBT people and allies persists.

One such champion is lawyer Alice Nkom, who founded the Association for the Defence of Homosexuality in 2003 to fight what she calls the ‘anti-homosexuals apartheid’ in Cameroon. As one of the few lawyers willing to represent the LGBT community in Cameroon, she intimately knows the impact of anti-homosexual legislation in Africa.

Cameroon punishes same-sex acts under section 347 of its penal code, with the punishment ranging from six months to five years of jail time. Enforcement has led to numerous human rights violations, including invasive examinations and extended detainment prior to trial.

In 1969 Ms. Nkom became the first the first black woman to pass the bar in Cameroon and began fighting for the rights of the underrepresented. Her organization, the Association for the Defence of Homosexuality, provides medical and psychological assistance to the national LGBT community. In the face of multiple death threats and the risk of imprisonment, Ms. Nkom remains determined to continue her work to end such persecution.

Amnesty International recently awarded Ms. Nkom with its Human Rights Award for her work. Nkom called the award a “prize of hope,” and hope is precisely what the African LGBT community needs.

As Uganda and Nigeria enact laws increasing persecution, and as the Democratic Republic of the Congo considers drafting a law of its own, homophobic rhetoric is pervasive. But, thanks to Ms. Nkom’s work, LGBT Africans know there is at least one voice of hope amidst the hate.

Human Rights First salutes Alice Nkom for her tireless efforts in the fight for equality and decriminalization for Cameroon’s LGBT community.

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Published on March 21, 2014

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