(This is the latest update of a page that is often revised — again and again — as new information is received.)
Worldwide, at least 21 people are currently in prison for violating laws that punish those who are born gay, lesbian or bisexual. In addition, at least 16 other people are awaiting trial for homosexuality.
The prison sentences of up to five years are at the lower end of punishments that are on the books in the 76-plus countries where homosexuality is currently illegal.
Listing 37 people is probably an extreme understatement of the number of people who are behind bars or awaiting trial on anti-homosexuality charges, but finding out about specific cases is difficult, especially in countries without a free press.
The lists below provide a narrow window into just one of many types of injustice affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, sometimes with fatal results. (See below.)
At present, the lists are led by Cameroon (3 in prison and 13 free while awaiting trial) and Nigeria (7 in prison). Those countries have a similar combination of repressive laws and active news media. Others are listed in Morocco (4), Saudi Arabia (1), Senegal (2), Tunisia (2), Zambia (3) and Zimbabwe (2).
21 PEOPLE IMPRISONED FOR HOMOSEXUALITY
Nigerian law provides for sentences of up to 14 years for homosexual activity. In parts of northern Nigeria where sharia law applies, the death penalty can be applied for same-sex intercourse.
Ifeanyi Chukwu Agah and Rabiu Benedict Yusuf
Two years in prison. Sentenced March 21, 2012.
Ifeanyi Chukwu Agah and Rabiu Benedict Yusuf were convicted of same-sex intercourse after police said Rabiu refused to pay Ifeanyi for his services as a prostitute. Rabiu asked for mercy on the grounds that he was married with six children, but the court rejected his plea.
Prince Ejimole and Lawrence Udo
Two pastors, Prince Ejimole and Lawrence Udo, were arrested after they were allegedly found having sex in a hotel room near the city of Lagos in January. No word on when a trial will be held or whether they have been released on bail.
Armstrong Ihua, Collins Ejike, and Pius Bamayi
Armstrong Ihua, Collins Ejike, and Pius Bamayi were arrested April 2 after a sexual encounter in a in Mararaba hotel room. They were detained without bail awaiting court action on April 23, but no further news has been received.
Cameroonian law provides for sentences of up to five years for homosexual activity. Human rights organizations are seeking the release of six people who are in prison in Cameroon for homosexuality.
Joseph Magloire Ombwa and Séraphin Ntsama
In prison awaiting trial.
Joseph Magloire Ombwa and Séraphin Ntsama were among a group of four men arrested August 10, 2011, on homosexuality charges and subjected to anal examinations. They are still being held at the central prison in Yaoundé awaiting trial. In January, along with Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome. In early 2012, they issued a New Year’s message expressing thanks to their supporters for giving them reason to hope, along with Tiomela Lontsi (Emma Tiomela Lontsie) and Nicolas Ntamack, the other men arrested with them in August 2011. All four are still awaiting trial, but Lontsi and Ntamack were released from prison in July 2012. In October 2012, Ntamack was re-arrested on new charges, reportedly unrelated to homosexuality.
In prison awaiting trial.
Police in the coastal city of Limbe arrested Cornelius Fonya on Oct. 29, 2012, on homosexuality charges after a mob seized him and delivered him to the police station. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in a hearing on Nov. 7. On Dec. 27, he was granted release on bail of 700,000 CFA — an amount that he was not able to raise. His lawyer says Fonya was arrested on the basis of the mob’s accusation.
Under Moroccan law, a prison sentence of up to three years is provided for homosexual activity.
Two unidentified men
Gay Maroc reported that two men were sentenced May 4, 2013, to three years for their homosexuality — the maximum penalty.
Two more unidentified men
Gay Maroc reported that two men were charged on May 5, 2013, with homosexual activity and were held awaiting a pre-trial hearing on May 13, 2013.
> SAUDI ARABIA
Under sharia law, the death penalty can be imposed for homosexual activity in Saudi Arabia.
Name unknown. In November 2010, a 27-year-old Saudi Arabian man was sentenced to 500 lashes and five years’ imprisonment by a court in Jeddah for the criminal offense of homosexuality, among other charges, Amnesty International reported.
Under Senegalese law, a prison sentence of one to five years is provided for homosexual activity.
Tamsir Jupiter Ndiaye and Matar Diop Diagne.
“The noted journalist and employee of UNESCO [Tamsir Jupiter Ndiaye] was sentenced on 24 October to a four year prison term without parole, for having gay sex and causing grievous bodily harm to Matar Diop Diagne, who was convicted of committing ‘acts against nature’ and sentenced for a three year prison sentence without parole,” Gay Star News reported.
Under Tunisian law, sodomy is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Mounir Baatour and an unidentified man.
The leader of Tunisia’s opposition Liberal Party, Mounir Baatour, was arrested with another man and jailed on sodomy charges following an incident on March 31 at the Sheraton Tunis Hotel, when hotel staff reportedly found two men engaging in sex. He pleaded not guilty. No further information about the case was released.
Under Zambian law, sexual relations between men are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Philip Mubiana and James Mwape
Philip Mubiana, 21, and James Mwape, 20, were arrested in early May and held in jail pending a May 22 trial on homosexuality charges.
16 PEOPLE IN DANGER OF BEING RETURNED TO PRISON
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede
Reportedly in hiding after his appeal to the Central Appeals Court was denied, hoping for a further appeal to the Supreme Court.
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was freed temporarily in mid-2012 for medical treatment after serving one year of a three-year prison sentence for homosexuality. He had been arrested after sending a text message expressing his love to a man he thought was his friend. An Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, Mbede hopes to appeal his sentence to the Supreme Court.
Aboubakar Siliki, Mbezele Yannick and Yntebeng Pascal
Aboubakar Siliki and Mbezele Yannick were arrested in April 2011 on homosexuality charges after they went to the police station in Douala to try to resolve a dispute over finances. When Yntebeng Pascal arrived at the police station to discuss the situation, he too was arrested on homosexuality charges after police deemed him “too effeminate.” The three men were detained for two days. They were then released awaiting trial. There has been no recent news on whether this is still an active case. (Source: Open letter in Frenchto president of Cameroon)
Tiomela Lontsi (Emma Tiomela Lontsie) and Nicolas Ntamack were arrested in August 2011 on homosexuality charges. They were released in July 2012 to await the start of their trial. Joseph Magloire Ombwa, Séraphin Ntsama, and Nicolas Ntamack, who were arrested with them, are still in prison awaiting trial. Ntamack reportedly was arrested and imprisoned again, but not on charges relating to homosexuality. Charges against Lontsi were dropped.
Esther Aboa Belinga and Martine Solange Abessolo
Three women in the city of Ambam were charged with lesbianism in February 2012. Esther Aboa Belinga and Martine Solange Abessolo were arrested because they were living together. They were detained for six days before they were released pending trial. The wife of Assom Ndem née Djula was also charged after her husband accused her of being a lesbian, because Abessolo told him to keep her away from Aboa Belinga. Charges against Mrs. Assom Ndem were later dropped.
Samuel Gervais Akam
Samuel Gervais Akam was held for months at the New Bell prison in Douala, awaiting trial for homosexuality. In November 2012, he was released on bail to continue waiting for the trial to begin.
Louis Marcel Ijanja
Louis Marcel Ijanja, a village chief, was arrested Sept. 3, 2010, in the coastal city of Kribi on charges of homosexuality. Eventually he was released from jail to await his trial. (Source: Human Rights Watch report of March 2013)
Gideon, Leonard, Elvis and R.
Four men identified as Gideon (or Gildeon) M., Leonard N., Elvis (or Kelvin) F., and R.X. (reportedly a minor) were arrested in December 2011 in the town of Kumba on homosexuality charges. They were denounced as homosexuals by an angry crowd, beaten, and turned over to police. They are still awaiting trial, but no court proceedings have been held. Their attorney hopes that the case will eventually be dropped. (Source: Human Rights Watch report of March 2013)
Under Zambian law, sexual relations between men are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Police arrested human rights activist Paul Kasonkomona on April 7, 2013, immediately after he appeared live on MUVI television urging repeal of the law that makes homosexual activity a crime. He was held for five days, then released on bail to await a trial that was scheduled for May 15. He was charged with “being idle and disorderly in a public place.”
Zimbabwean law provides for sentences of up to one year for homosexual activity.
Lionel Girezha and Ngonidzashe Chinya
Lionel Girezha, 27, and Ngonidzashe Chinya, 28, were arrested on Oct. 20, 2011, in the suburb of Mbare in Harare and charged with sodomy, Amnesty International reported. They were beaten before they were taken into police custody. At their first trial, gang members harassed and threatened their lawyers, who successfully appealed to have the trial’s location changed from Mbare. Girezha and Chinya have been released pending the start of their new trial.
Two more? Ability Chatira Mpofu and Blessing Chauke
Ability Chatira Mpofu and Blessing Chauke reportedly were arrested in September 2012 after police found that Chauke was wearing women’s clothes and that the two men had gotten married. But the activist group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe said they did not know the two men, so they concluded that they were fictional creations of Zimbabwe’s homophobic media.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Some ways to give a boost to the struggle to release these prisoners and to repeal all anti-homosexuality laws:
- Support Amnesty International, which campaigns for some LGBT prisoners, most recently Jean-Claude Roger Mbede in Cameroon and Philip Mubiana and James Mwape in Zambia.
- Donate to the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation and its Spirit of 76 Worldwide project, which seeks the repeal of anti-homosexuality laws currently on the books in 76-plus countries.
- Sign online petitions for the release of LGBTI prisoners at allout.org.
Readers, please suggest other steps to take.
OTHER INJUSTICES FACING LGBTI PEOPLE
Of necessity, the lists above omit many types of injustices that confront LGBTI people worldwide. Here are a few of the omissions:
The lists above do not include people who were executed in one of the seven countries where homosexual activity is a capital crime. (In Iran, three people were executed in 2011 for homosexual activities, according to Amnesty International.)
The lists do not include the dozens of gay men who reportedly have been killed by death squads in Iraq without any government interference and sometimes with help from police.
The lists do not include the many people who die of AIDS each year in countries where LGBTI people are excluded from HIV prevention programs. Nor do they include the countless heterosexual women who die of AIDS after contracting HIV from their closeted gay or bisexual husband in countries where homosexuals are stigmatized.
Matthew Shepard, who was killed in 1998, apparently because he was gay. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
The lists do not include lesbians and gays, such as Tyler Clementi of Rutgers University in the United States, who commit suicide because of the scorn they suffer or the unwarranted shame they feel because of who they are.
The lists do not include people killed by bigots because they are gay, such as Matthew Shepard in the United States in 1998, and an alleged 249 people in Peru during 2006-2010.
They do not include people killed because they are working for gay rights, such as Daniel Zamudio in Chile and Thapelo Makutle in South Africa in 2012 and perhaps David Kato in Uganda in 2011.
They also do not include lesbian and bisexual women who suffer “corrective rapes” or sexual assaults because of their sexual orientation.
PREVIOUSLY ON THE LIST
Jonas Singha Kumie and Franky Ndome (Djome)
Sentenced to 5 years in prison; verdict overturned on appeal
Jonas Singa Kumie and Franky Djome were in a group of three men who were arrested in July 2011 for homosexual acts. They were sentenced to five years in prison, appealed from their cells, and finally received a favorable decision after more than a year and half in prison. On their release in early 2013, they were reportedly pursued by a mob and went into hiding. The third man who was arrested with them paid a fine and was released.
Stéphane Maliedji and Jean Jacques Eyock
Fled the country while awaiting trial
Stéphane Maliedji and Jean Jacques Eyock of Cameroon, along with Australian citizen John Vasek, were arrested on March 26, 2010, on charges of violating Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality laws. They were released after Vasek paid $2,500 to the police. The case is still pending, but all three reportedly have now fled the country.
Emile Mamougou Nkoa and Fabien Mbala
Convicted. Released after five months.
Emile Mamougou Nkoa and Fabien Mbala were arrested for homosexuality and convicted on May 14, 2010. They were reportedly released after five months.
Depadou N and Paul Arno
Arrested and released after five days in late 2011. They reportedly paid bribes to win their release.
Amnesty International report, Jan. 23, 2013: “In December 2012, Amnesty International delegates met and interviewed [Thomas Leba] at New Bell prison. …. Leba, 24, said he was arrested in Douala on 15 October 2011 and accused of being gay. The Court of First Instance in Douala found him guilty of homosexuality and sentenced him to one year’s imprisonment. He appealed against his conviction and sentence. When Amnesty International met him in December he had already been in prison for 15 months but had not been released, apparently because he was awaiting a decision of the Court of Appeal.” Perhaps he has now been released, since much more than a year has passed since he was sentenced to one year in prison.
Ugandan law provides for life sentences for homosexual activity, though the law has rarely been enforced. But two young LGBT activists were arrested on homosexuality-related charges just before and just after New Year’s Day 2013.
Arrested Dec. 31 and accused of homosexual activity and reportedly also “promoting homosexuality,” though that is not an offense under current Ugandan law. He was released, repeatedly summoned back to answer further questions, and still awaiting word on whether charges against him will be pursued.
Arrested Jan. 2 when he went to visit Joseph Kawesi at the police station where he is jailed. Najibu was reportedly accused of homosexual activity and “promoting homosexuality.” Like Kawesi, Najibu was released on bail and is awaiting word on whether charges against him will be pursued.