Is justice for rape victims in Cameroon a right or a privilege?
Cameroon’s penal code states that “Whoever by force or moral ascendancy compels any female, whether above or below the age of puberty, to have sexual intercourse with him shall be punished with imprisonment for from five to 10 years.”It further makes it illegal for a man to have sex with a woman under 16 years of age even if she consents to such intercourse.
Despite these laws, few perpetrators of rape are ever prosecuted in Cameroon.
A separate study jointly carried out by the GTZ and RENATA, titled “Constraints in Seeking Justice for Rape Victims in Cameroon*, revealed that of the 33 reported cases between 2004 and 2007 at the Bamenda High Court, in Cameroon’s North West region, “only two of them were sentenced, 22 were struck out (cancelled) as lacking evidence, eight cases were discharged on grounds of simple threats, while one was withdrawn”.
Constraints such as a lack of counseling for survivors and accused, lack of specialised judges for rape cases, the high cost of court action and administration, as well as threats from the accused, all combine to make justice for rape survivors a privilege, not a right in Cameroon.