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Biography of Alice NKOM

Cameroon > Professionals : Alice NKOM

Alice NKOM
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Biography :

Alice Nkom is a Cameroonian Lawyer well known for her advocacy towards decriminalization of homosexuality in Cameroon.

She was the first woman to become a lawyer in Cameroon. That was in 1969, and she was 24 years old, and she’s been kicking through ever since. Over the last four decades, Nkom has been a leading civil rights and women’s rights activist and advocate in Cameroon, and for the last decade or so has become famous, or infamous, for her defense of LGBTIQ persons, communities and rights.

In February 2003, Nkom established ADEFHO, L’association pour la défense des droits des homosexuel(le)s. The Association for the Defence of Homosexuals (its English name) has suffered threats, attacks, intimidation. Nkom has received death threats. She has been imprisoned. She has been threatened with being disbarred. And she persists and returns to court again and again.

10 women were arrested on suspicion of being lesbians. No proof was given. No proof was needed. Suspicion is enough, when it comes to protecting the nation. Men have been arrested and imprisoned for hairstyle and for drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream. These crimes of fashion proved the men were feminine and thus gay and therefore worthy of incarceration. Perception is everything.

In 2011, when her own arrest seemed imminent, Nkom wrote to leading Cameroonian LGBT activists: “Do not worry for me. I believe I will be arrested in the coming days, but I will not lose sleep over this or, especially, abandon what we have begun together.” It’s been a busy year for Alice Nkom, a year of pushing on, pushing back, pushing forward. Nkom has heard the rumble of violence, menace and threat, and has a direct response: “Threats like these show us that the fight must continue.”

She has been rated as one of the most fascinating Africans in 2012 by a United States based Magazine "The New Yorker". This is what The New Yorker says of Me Alice Nkom: It is rare enough to find vocal gay-rights advocates in West Africa, but the Cameroonian lawyer Alice Nkom takes it one step further: she has devoted her practice, the Association to Defend Homosexuals, to protecting L.G.B.T. citizens in a country where homosexual acts are illegal. As a result, she has been repeatedly threatened with disbarment and arrest. (One Cameroonian lawyer went on local television with a Bible, advising that Nkom be put to death for promoting homosexuality.) Sixty-seven years old and grandmotherly looking, the lawyer called attention to an “anti-gay crackdown” last year in Cameroon, in which at least ten people had been arrested on charges of homosexuality, including one man who was sentenced to three years in prison for sending a text message to another man, and numerous incidents of homophobic violence. She refuses to close her practice. “Someone has to do this,” she says.

Last update : 04/13/2013

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