Gay-love text gets sender 3 years in jail

A Cameroonian man texts another man: "I am very much in love with you." That is enough to get him sent to prison. An appeal hearing held yesterday confirms his sentence.

One text in Cameroon can put you in a cell. Josh Miller/CNET

This story will move only those who have a heart.

The remainder -- well, perhaps they man the judicial system in Cameroon.

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, 32, wanted to express his love by text. He sent this: "I am very much in love with you."

The only problem is that Mbede lives in Cameroon. There, as the Associated Press reports, homosexual conduct is illegal. And Mbede sent the text to another man.

The police arrested him on suspicion of homosexuality. His phone, to them, confirmed it.

So he was sent to jail for three years in 2011.

Reason appeared to have prevailed in July. After Mbede had spent 18 months locked up for a text, his lawyer secured him a provisional release. This was, however, only on medical grounds.

Yesterday, his lawyer formally appealed the sentence. The appeal was dismissed. Mbede must go back to jail.

Mbede told the AP:

I am not sure I can put up with the antigay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of my perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair.

Amnesty International and other organizations have been fighting on Mbede's behalf.

Sadly -- appallingly -- Cameroon isn't the only country with such laws. Liberia, Uganda, and Nigeria are taking steps to make their antigay laws even more strict, even more unconscionable.

Of Cameroon, Neela Ghoshal, a researcher in the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, told the AP: "Usually people are convicted on the basis of allegations or denunciations from people who have claimed to law enforcement officials that they are gay."

In this case, it was a text that seems to have been held up as evidence.

When we consider our first world problems, we talk about sexting. We talk about the thing we call "freedom of speech." We mean it to be freedom of speech in public.

We can freely express our feelings by text (or in any other way) to someone we love. Even if we've fallen out with them. Even if they can't stand us today or for the rest of time. Even if they're of the same sex. Even if they're a judge in Cameroon.

We think this is something fundamental -- so fundamental that we take it for granted.

Why shouldn't we tell those we love how we feel about them?

Think of what one text of love has meant to Jean-Claude Roger Mbede.

 

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