A violent mob sexually assaulted, beat, threatened, and humiliated a 27-year-old intersex person on November 15, in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital. The perpetrators filmed the attack, which lasted for several hours, in two horrific videos which circulated on social media.
According to medical reports issued by a health facility in Yaoundé, the victim Sara (not her real name) suffered multiple hematomas all over her body. Sara’s doctor said that she needed monitoring for 15 to 18 days due to the severity of her injuries.
Police arrested a man in connection with the attack, but released him 48 hours later. On November 16, Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), a human rights organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people, filed a complaint with the police on behalf of Sara as a victim of assault, battery, and inhuman and degrading treatment. CAMFAIDS is providing support to Sara, including for medical and psychological assistance.
Two CAMFAIDS members said Sara is shocked and severely traumatized and attempted suicide on November 19. “We found her unconscious in the bathroom beside a bottle of bleach. We called the doctor. She is under observation,” said a CAMFAID activist.
In August, Human Rights Watch documented another brutal mob attack against two transgender women, Shakiro and Patricia, in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital. The attack occurred just weeks after a court had ordered the women’s release from prison pending their appeal of a five-year sentence on arbitrary “homosexuality” charges.
2021 has seen an uptick in police action against LGBTI people in Cameroon. Between February and April, security forces arrested at least 27 people, including a child, for alleged consensual same-sex conduct or gender nonconformity, beating and subjecting some to forced anal examinations in detention, recognized as a form or ill-treatment or torture.
Authorities have yet to make a public statement on Sara’s attack. Their silence over this high-profile incident of senseless violence against an LGBTI victim risks sending a message of tolerance for such abuse and highlights the government’s failure to protect LGBTI Cameroonians. Police should urgently respond to CAMFAID’s complaint, investigate the attack against Sara, and bring those responsible to justice. They should also ensure the safety of LGBTI activists who are doing crucial work in a climate of intimidation and violence.