Homophobia, the term used to describe the fear and hatred of people with alternative sexual orientation, is a crime in 77 nations and has lead to bullying tactics, police brutality, public humiliation and imprisonment. These injustices can even lead to death while in police custody. Every human being has the right to exist without fear of retribution by those who disagree with their thoughts, opinions or sexual orientation.
At this moment in Cameroon since May of 2012 Amnesty International has been following closely the case of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede. Mbede spent over a year in Kondengui, one of Cameroon’s central prisons. His crime was sending a text message to another man. Even his lawyers have been harassed and threatened. Although orphaned at birth, Mbede has struggled to educate himself and prior to his incarceration was a graduate student working towards a degree in Philosophy of Communications at the University of Yaounde.
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede in custody. (This photograph was smuggled out of Cameroon by Issa Nyphaga)
In the US bullying and all types of sexual harassment is a problem being actively addressed. There are a myriad of groups and organizations fighting this problem and raising public awareness toward issues of gay rights. It is frightening to think in many parts of the world this a crime punishable by arrest, imprisonment and even death. At the request of Anita Grunbaum of Amnesty International, Santa Fe based artist Issa Nyphaga has been following Mbede’s case and taken up an initiative to help not only Mbede, but the lawyers involved.
Intimately acquainted with the Cameroonian legal system, Nyaphaga’s emergency measures for the more than 35 people now identified as prisoners with charges related to being or thought to be homosexual include the following. Dissemination of materials denouncing extreme governmental measures surrounding all parties involved. Sustainability for the law students, lawyers, prisoners and ex-prisioners struggling to survive in an extremely hostile environment.
I have been involved with Issa Nyaphaga working closely with Art For Health. We mounted a series of shows in New York, Santa Fe, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Art for Health raised money for medical procedures, medical equipment, clean water initiatives and HIV/AIDS education for villages in Cameroon. Working under the umbrella of Hope International for Takar People (HITIP), we were able to provide surgeries and medical equipment and send the Bush Doctors of Drexel University to Cameroon. I know his dedication to any cause he takes on. If you are interested in supporting Amnesty International, Issa Nyaphaga and other artists and activists worldwide in creating an international spotlight on this despicable situation and the cause of anti bullying and persecution due to sexual orientation connect in a meaningful way with hitip.org. The way to help is to get involved.