Sacked, shunned and suicidal – the Cameroon sports stars battling anti-gay laws

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11/13/2019

Cameroonian athlete Thierry Essamba still trains every day, even though he has little hope of reviving a career cut off when he was ousted from the national squad in a scandal over homosexuality. The 38-year-old hurdling champion was training for the 2014 Commonwealth Games when a senior sports official told a crowd of journalists and fellow athletes that he was gay – a career-ending slur in a country where homosexual acts are illegal. “I felt as if my body was being torn apart from the inside,” Essamba told the Thomson Reuters Foundation as he sat on the bleachers after finishing his daily solitary training in a dilapidated stadium in Yaounde. “That day I saw all the people in the stadium who used to look up to me with admiration, with respect. Now they regarded me with contempt.” Same-sex relationships are taboo across much of Africa, which has some of the world’s most prohibitive laws against homosexuality. But few countries are as assiduous in applying them as Cameroon, whose penal code punishes “sexual relations between persons of the same sex” with up to five years in prison.

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