Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women and provides penalties of between five and 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted rapists. Police and courts, however, rarely investigated or prosecuted rape cases, especially since victims often did not report them. The law does not address spousal rape.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, although assault is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment and fines.
The DGSN, in partnership with UN Women, also carried out activities to combat rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). From January 30 to March 31, the two organizations trained 250 police officers in the Far North region on the protection of rights of women and children vis-a-vis national and international legal frameworks. Following the training, four special units referred to as “gender desks” were established in four divisions where Boko Haram was active: Diamare, Mayo-Tsanaga, Mayo-Sava, and Logone and Chari. The units were intended to serve as counseling centers for victims of GBV.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law protects the physical and bodily integrity of persons, and the 2016 penal code prohibits genital mutilation of all persons. Whoever mutilates the genitals of a person is subject to imprisonment from 10 to 20 years, and imprisonment for life if the offender habitually carries out this practice, does so for commercial purposes, or if the practice causes death. FMG/C remained a problem, but its prevalence remained low. As in the previous year, children were reportedly subjected to FGM/C in isolated areas of the Far North, East, and Southwest regions and in the Choa and Ejagham tribes, although the practice continued to decrease. For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Widows were sometimes forcibly married to one of the deceased husband’s relatives to secure continued use of property left by the husband, including the marital home. To protect women, including widows, better, the government included provisions in the 2016 penal code addressing the eviction of one spouse from the marital home by any person other than the other spouse.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. The penal code provides for imprisonment from six months to one year and fines from 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($187-$1,865) for whoever takes advantage of the authority conferred on them by their position to harass another using orders, threats, constraints, or pressure to obtain sexual favors. The penalty is imprisonment for one to three years if the victim is a minor and from three to five years if the offender is in charge of the education of the victim. Despite these legal provisions, sexual harassment was widespread.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men; however, in law women did not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men. Although local government officials including mayors claimed women had access to land in their constituencies, the overall sociocultural practice of denying women the right to own land, especially through inheritance, was prevalent in most regions.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from parents, and it is the parents’ responsibility to register births. Because many children were not born in formal health facilities and many parents were unable to reach local government offices, many births were unregistered. (For data, see the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.
Education: The law provides for tuition-free compulsory primary education but does not set an age limit. Children were generally expected to complete primary education at age 12. Secondary school students had to pay tuition and other fees in addition to buying uniforms and books. This rendered education unaffordable for many children.
Teachers and students from the Northwest and Southwest regions boycotted classes as part of broader Anglophone protests during the year. In the Far North region, the 2016-17 academic year was largely lost for many children due to the fight against Boko Haram. Stand Up For Cameroon, a Cameroon People’s Party platform for political leaders, civil society activists, and engaged citizens, stated in August that the Boko Haram conflict had made approximately 114,000 school-aged children IDPs.
Child Abuse: Boko Haram continued to abduct children and, according to reports, used 83 children, including 55 girls, as “suicide bombers” between January 1 and July 31. News reports also cited cases of child rape and the kidnapping of children for ransom. (For additional data, see the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.)
Security force abuse of children was also a problem. In March a gendarme in Boumba and Ngoko Division, East region, raped a 10-year-old girl after breaking into her home. The child’s parents filed complaints with the gendarmerie brigade commander, the company commander, and the DO, but the officials allegedly took no immediate action. On March 27, the prosecutor at the local military court allegedly transferred the case to the gendarmerie commander in Bertoua, East region, for preliminary investigations. The suspect and a person considered to be his facilitator were arrested and detained at the Bertoua Central Prison pending the preliminary investigation. On September 19, the government commissioner at the Bertoua Military Court reportedly ordered their release, and as of November no information was publicly available on the reason for the release. Since then, the suspect reportedly threatened the victim’s family with reprisal.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. The law punishes anyone who compels another to marry with imprisonment for five to 10 years, and with fines of 25,000 CFA francs ($47) to 1,000,000 CFA francs ($1,865). When victims are minors, punishment may not be less than a two-year prison sentence, regardless of mitigating circumstances. The court may also take away custody from parents who give away their underage children in marriage. Despite these legal provisions, some families reportedly tried to marry their girls before age 18. (For data, see the UNICEF website.)
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, as well as practices related to child pornography. A conviction, however, requires proof of the use of a threat, fraud, deception, force, or other forms of coercion. Penalties include imprisonment of 10 to 20 years and a fine of 100,000 to 10 million CFA francs ($187-$18,656). The law does not specifically provide a minimum age for consensual sex. Children under age 18 were exploited in prostitution, especially by restaurant and bar promoters, although no statistics were available.
Child Soldiers: The government did not recruit or use child soldiers, but Boko Haram continued to utilize child soldiers, including girls, in their attacks on civilian and military targets. There were also limited reports that some vigilance committees in the Far North region incorporated children in their ranks to combat Boko Haram. For example, Child Soldiers International reported that vigilance committees in Amchide, Fotokol, Kolofata and Maroua used children. The NGO further stated the children were mostly between the ages of 15 and 17 and accounted for 10 percent of vigilance committee membership. UN agencies and NGOs operating in the region could not confirm these numbers.
Displaced Children: The International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix Round 11 estimated that 67 percent of IDPs and refugees were children. Many children lived on the streets of major urban centers, although their number apparently declined as a result of stringent security measures against Boko Haram and the amended penal code that criminalizes vagrancy.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community was very small, and there were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not specifically address discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the constitution explicitly forbids all forms of discrimination, providing that “everyone has equal rights and obligations.” Secondary public education is tuition free for persons with disabilities and children born of parents with disabilities, and initial vocational training, medical treatment, and employment must be provided “when possible,” and public assistance “when needed.”
The majority of children with disabilities attended schools. The curriculum of the Government Teacher Training College in Buea, Southwest region, was modified to include training in inclusive education skills for teaching the deaf, blind, and developmentally disabled, among others. The government aimed to introduce inclusive education nationwide.
The population consists of an estimated 286 ethnic groups. Members of the president’s Beti/Bulu ethnic group from the South region held key positions and were disproportionately represented in the government, state-owned businesses, security forces, and CPDM.
An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Baka, including Bakola and Bagyeli, resided primarily in (and were the earliest known inhabitants of) the forested areas of the South and East regions. The government did not effectively protect the civil or political rights of either group. Other groups often treated the Baka as inferior and sometimes subjected them to unfair and exploitative labor practices. There were credible reports the Mbororos, itinerant pastoralists living mostly in the North, East, Adamawa, and Northwest regions, were subject to harassment, sometimes with the complicity of administrative or judicial authorities.
The government continued long-standing efforts to provide birth certificates and national identity cards to Baka. Most Baka did not have these documents, and efforts to reach them were impeded by the difficulty in accessing their homes deep in the forest.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs ($37-$373).
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights organizations such as the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Humanity First Cameroon, Alternatives Cameroun, National Observatory of the Rights of LGBTI Persons and Their Defenders, and others reported several arrests of LGBTI persons. LGBTI individuals received anonymous threats by telephone, text message, and email, including of “corrective” rape, but authorities did not investigate allegations of harassment. Police were generally unresponsive to requests to increase protection for lawyers who received threats because they represented LGBTI persons. Both police and civilians reportedly continued to extort money from presumed LGBTI individuals by threatening to expose them.
Humanity First Cameroon and Alternatives Cameroun claimed in their joint 2017 annual report that eight LGBTI persons remained imprisoned for homosexuality in the Kondengui central prison in Yaounde. The two NGOs also documented 578 other cases of human rights abuses related to homosexuality, including 27 arbitrary arrests.
On August 11, police summoned CAMFAIDS’ leadership to the DGSN for “promotion of homosexual practices.” On August 16, police interrogated four members of CAMFAIDS. While some questions concerned the legal status of the advocacy group and its funding sources, police also requested a list of its members and a list of similar organizations.
Some LGBTI persons had difficulty accessing birth registration and other identification documents. Officials at identification units refused to issue identification cards for persons whose physical characteristics were not consistent with their birth certificate.
In 2016 Johns Hopkins University, Metabiota Cameroon, and Care USA, in collaboration with the National AIDS Coordinating Council, conducted an Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey on gay men, using a sample of 1,323 men. The preliminary report released in March showed inter alia that 14.7 percent were arrested for being homosexual. (For more information, see jhu.pure.elsevier.com) .
Human rights and health organizations continued to advocate for the LGBTI community by defending LGBTI individuals under prosecution, promoting HIV/AIDS initiatives, and working to change laws prohibiting consensual same-sex activity. Organizations undertaking these activities faced obstacles securing official registration, as well as, limited or non-existent responses from police when they experienced harassment.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons afflicted with HIV or AIDS often suffered social discrimination and were isolated from their families and society due to social stigma and lack of education about the disease.
Unlike previous years, there were no credible reports of specific cases of discrimination in employment.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Several cases of vigilante action and other attacks were reported during the year.
Several arson attacks were also recorded, involving the destruction of both public and private property. On March 30, unidentified individuals set fire to the Old Market in Limbe, Southwest region. The fire lasted about four hours and destroyed at least fifty shops.
The law provides for sentences of between two and 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of between 5,000 and 100,000 CFA francs ($9-$187) for witchcraft. There were no reported arrests or trials for alleged witchcraft reported during the year.