The daily tally of prisoners in Yaoundé Central Prison, on the outskirts of Yaoundé, Cameroon, is on a chalkboard the size of a Ping-Pong table affixed to the wall. Today there are 4,113. The prison administrator—we started calling him “the Governor”—tracks the inmates. This one is in the hospital, that one is being transferred, another set free. Murderers, petty thieves, carjackers and burglars are among the 4,113—and at least twenty of the prisoners housed at Yaoundé Central Prison are there just for being gay.

Homosexuality is outlawed in more than eighty countries around the world, over thirty of which are in Africa. Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has been on a crusade to lock up LGBT people: working from a list of over 160 suspects, officials have made dozens of arrests. On February 24, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay law that allows for life imprisonment of LGBT people and penalties for people who don’t report a person they know to be gay. President Obama recently spoke out against Uganda’s anti-gay bill; Secretary of State John Kerry has decried the atrocities in Nigeria. But Cameroon has been spared such an international spotlight, even though it has been quietly arresting, charging and imprisoning gay people under article 347 of the penal code for years.

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