We are helping her secure asylum in the UK
London, UK –16 July 2019
Cameroon is one of the 35 countries of the Commonwealth that still criminalise homosexuality. Same sex sexual activity can be punished by up to five years of imprisonment. The law applies to both men and women. In 2018, the police in Cameroon arrested and tortured 25 men for being gay. Espoir fled Cameroon because she was persecuted and feared for her life.
This is Espoir’s story in her own words:
“I always felt I was different but I could not articulate my feelings. One day a girl from my school came and talked to me. She was just a friend but over time I realised I was attracted to her, I felt comfortable with her.
“It felt so good to be understood and loved. It felt so right. On a fateful occasion, we were at an event in the town. I wanted to be with her. We hugged and kissed when we thought we were out of sight. It was a terrible mistake. Someone saw us and begun shouting.
“They were saying we were an abomination and that we should be punished. We were both petrified, unable to move. In a few moments a small crowd gathered and became increasingly hostile. We knew then we had to run for our lives.
“My girlfriend escaped but I was cornered by the crowd. I was terrified. The people insulted me, pushed me to the ground, kicked me, punched me and spat on me. I did not know how this could happen to me. These people were people who knew me. How come they had so much hate towards me?
“My whole body was in pain. Then the crowd decided to take me to the police station. There I was shoved in to a cold cell. I thought I might have some respite, but I was wrong, so wrong. Two of the policemen came into the cell and said ‘we have heard that you like women, we will correct you’.
“I was pushed onto to the cold concrete floor of the cell. They pinned me down so that I could not move and both raped me. There was nothing I could do. I was defenceless and even today remembering this is so hard. This ordeal continued for five days, during which my whole body was in pain. My soul was broken. I just wanted to die.
“After five days my father took me home; I suspect he bribed the policeman. I thought my parents would listen to me, but this was not the case. I was insulted and locked into a room without food. My sister took pity on me and fed me, but I felt as though I had left one prison for another.
“My parents then decided to marry me against my will to a man – it was a forced marriage. My life was in tatters. My husband forced me to have sex with him. It was never consensual. I had no choice, what else could I do. When he was in a bad mood, he would beat me ceaselessly.
“I lost all hope until I met another woman, Grace. She was a lesbian in the same situation as me. Grace and I agreed that we could no longer endure this life, so we decided to leave Cameroon. We thought anywhere would be better than this hell. We managed to get a visa to Malaysia. We escaped and we were going to fly away.
“However, on the eve of getting the visa I saw Grace’s husband and brother near our hotel. I tried to phone her but she was not answering. I was too afraid to go back.
“I departed for Malaysia. It was only later that I learnt Grace was brutally assaulted by her husband and her brother. She was so severely beaten that she did not live another day. I was devasted as we had plans to make a new life.
“In Malaysia, I realised that it was only marginally better for people like me and I managed to obtain a visa for the UK. I reached the UK in 2016, where I was still very afraid to disclose my sexuality as I was still shocked and traumatised. I did not feel confident enough to mention that I was a lesbian.
“It was so hard for me to share my story with officers of the Home Office. At every sentence I uttered, they questioned me. My application was rejected and I was terrified of being deported back to Cameroon. This would have been a death sentence for me. Fortunately, I was able to make an appeal and my case is still under consideration. My life is still on hold, but I am optimistic. This optimism stems from my involvement with Pliny and the Foundation. I thank them.”