January 30, 2013 / 6:17 PM / 7 years ago

Cameroon leader sees minds changing on "crime" of homosexuality

Cameroon's President Paul Biya waves as he leaves following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said on Wednesday that attitudes were changing in his country towards its criminalisation of homosexuality, which has been criticised by the European Union.

Speaking to journalists after meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, Biya stressed that homosexuality had been illegal in Cameroon since before he came to power more than 30 years ago.

“Now I can say that discussions are under way. People are talking, minds can change one way or another but currently it’s a crime,” he said.

Earlier this month a Cameroon appeals court overturned the convictions of two men found guilty of homosexuality and sentenced to five years in jail for cross-dressing and wearing make-up.

“We have recently had news that tribesmen convicted for homosexuality have been released. So there is a change of mind and there’s no reason to despair,” Biya said.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said the criminalisation of homosexuality in Cameroon was incompatible with international human rights law.

Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries. In Cameroon, the penalties range from six months to five years in jail. In 2012, there were at least 12 convictions.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Jason Webb

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