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In the West African nation of Cameroon, as in over 70 other countries around the world, same-sex intimacy is illegal. Since it is literally illegal to be lesbian, to be out is to be an obvious target of persecution. Indeed, mentioned Nkom through her translator, boys have been arrested and imprisoned for haircut and for drinking Baileys Irish Cream. These crimes of manner proved the men were feminine and thus gay and therefore worthy of captivity. Perception is everything.
In addition to state violence, gay people in Cameroon are also subject to state-sanctioned violence. One of Cameroons producing LGBT activists, Eric Ohena Lembembe, was tortured and killed on July 15, 2013. The crime was never solved, or even seriously analyse. Police didnt save the felony scene, only questioned other gay activists, and dropped the example without explanation.
How, then, are LGBT people to advocate for their rights( civil, human, or otherwise) if they cannot even identify themselves?
Meet Alice Nkom. As a straight girl, Nkom is mainly safe from legal prosecution( though not from acts of violence, of course) and can speak for those who cannot are talking about themselves.
Born in 1945, Nkom has been a lawyer since 1969. She was the first woman to become a lawyer in Cameroon, and had a long career as a civil rights lawyer. Her patrons have included victims of police violence and womens rights activists targeted by the state.
In the last decade, she has become famous for protecting people accused( and sometimes convicted) of homosexualityincluding, for example, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, who invested three years in jail on the basis of text messages sent to another man.
Needless to say, this does not enamor herself to the powers that be in Cameroon. She has been threatened with disbarment, incarceration, and worse. Nkom was almost arrested in 2011. It is likely the example that attention and outrage from overseas saved her from this fate.
So why is a straight grandmother the leading advocate for homosexuals in Cameroon?
Hear her are talking about herself in this astonishing video.