Friday, December 11, 2020

Cameroon: Ayah Foundation discriminates against homosexuals -- an affront to humanitarianism

Homophobia is rife in Cameroon, a majority Christian country where homosexuality is still illegal in 2020 and homophobes take their cues from religion and a colonial law that is at odds with international human rights - and humanitarian - standards. Homophobia in Cameroon is alarming but not surprising. However, it is definitely surprising when homophobia and blatant discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation emanates from a humanitarian non-governmental organization. 

The Ayah International Foundation (AIF), commonly known as the Ayah Foundation, is an association described on its website as "a humanitarian organization with neither political nor religious affiliations committed to preserving and/or improving the lives of vulnerable persons around the world." Despite its charitable works - from orphanages to refugee camps and to supporting persons internally displaced by a crisis that broke out in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon in 2016 - numerous posts on the Facebook page of the foundation's president, which doubles as the foundation's Facebook page, from December 2019 into January 2020 reveal that the foundation, or at least its leadership, is homophobic and discriminates against individuals based on sexual orientation.

On December 30, 2019, in a Facebook update titled "Understanding Homosexuals", a photograph of a young girl was posted on the Ayah DeHumanitarian Facebook page and followers were asked to look at the "beautiful African queen" and "give me one reason why a man will go after a man for heaven's sake?" The Facebook page went to ask its audience, "Isn't the woman the best 'thing' God created?"

On the same day, in another Facebook post titled "AIF Doesn't Accept Donations from Homosexuals", the Foundation, through its president, reinforced its so-called "crusade" against homosexuality, which it dubbed "unholy". The organization "categorically" stated that it would "never knowingly receive funds from any homosexual" association or group. The association went on to state that it would refund the donation of an individual "if he proves to us that he is a practicing homosexual" and that he made a donation to the association.

In one of the screenshots of exchanges with the individual who took the association to task, the AIF president referred to the individual as "sick" and in need of "serious help".

At the time of this writing the post had garnered 159 comments, including a slew of homophobic comments -- none of which the foundation or it president disavowed or condemned.

Tripling down on its homophobia, the "DeHumanitarian" asked a question on his Facebook page the next day, December 31, 2019, about "preserving" Africa from homosexuality.
On the same day, he went on to post a piece calling on a ban on same-sex schools in a bid to "combat homosexuality".

On January 1, 2020 the AIF shared a post by a Cameroonian LGBTQ activist, Kiki Bandy, taking the foundation to task for its homophobia. In the post, the activist challenged Ayah Foundation to update its website with information that it does not accept donations from homosexuals, and she predicted that the post will hurt the foundation. In a post the next day, the president of the foundation promised to do so. The foundation also announced that it had reached out to the Cameroonian LGBTQ activist in a bid to refund her donation.

On January 7, 2019 the Ayah Foundation announced that it has updated its website to include a clause that it does not accept donations from "advocates, believers in, and/or practitioners of same sex marriage and/or homosexuality."


First of all, it is worth stating that the line between the personal Facebook page of the President of AIF and the association's is blurred and posts by the president of the association are in my view attributable to the association.

Non-discrimination constitutes the core of international human rights law, and discrimination on all grounds, including sexual orientation, race, sex, gender, nationality, political or other opinion, religion, color, disability, language and other grounds is prohibited in all key international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child. Regional human rights instrument, including the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights

Drawing from the aforementioned Facebook posts, it is plausible to conclude that the Ayah International Foundation is blatantly homophobic and discriminates based on sexual orientation. A catalogue of Facebook posts from December 2019 into January 2020, as examined above, strongly support this assertion.

Some might argue that the Facebook posts in question are not attributable to the Ayah Foundation because there were posted by the president of the Foundation. Those who hold this school of thought are wrong. The words of the president of the Foundation are attributable to the Foundation because the president speaks for the Foundation, and the Foundation acted on the utterances of the president by updating its website to reflect the homophobic views expressed by its president. In addition, there seems to be, in fact, no distinction between the Facebook page of the President of the Foundation and the Foundation's because all the Foundations activities, including press statements are posted on the Facebook page in question. Above all, the Foundation has not disavowed or condemned the Facebook posts. It follows that the views expressed are representative of the views of the Foundation.

By not accepting donations from advocates and so-called "practitioners of same-sex marriages and/or homosexuality" the Ayah Foundation essentially does not accept donations from human rights advocates. This is the case because all human rights advocates worth their salt adhere to the principle of non-discrimination and oppose discrimination on all grounds, including sexual orientation.

A Foundation that discriminates should not be in the business of humanitarian work because humanitarianism is about humanity, and, according to teaching resources by the British Red Cross, the principle of humanitarianism "promotes mutual understanding, friendship, co-operation and lasting peace amongst all peoples." It follows that discrimination of any kind has no place in humanitarianism.

Impartiality and unity are among fundamental principles of the Red Cross, according to The International Committee of the Red Cross. 

The Red Cross, for example, which to me is the standard bearer of humanitarian action, "makes no discrimination" and "must be open to all".

While it is clear that the Ayah Foundation is homophobic and discriminates on grounds of sexual orientation against donors and humanitarians who seek to take humanitarian action through the Foundation, it remains unclear whether or not the Foundation discriminates in provision of assistance. However, the foundation certainly cannot be trusted to provide assistance to everyone, without discrimination of any kind.

The Ayah Foundation prides itself on its website as having no religious affiliations. That might be true but the Foundation is certainly influenced by the religious views of its president, who on January 5, 2020 posted a video preaching about tithing, on the same Facebook page that promulgated homophobia and discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. In the video, he raises questions, including "who is the Lord addressing in Malachi 3:10?" The video, it is worth mentioning, includes a link to the Foundation's website. The debunks the association's "no religious affiliations" claims. 

By refusing to accept donations from members of the LGBTQ community and advocates, the Ayah Foundation, a humanitarian association violates the principle of non-discrimination, which according to the International Committee of the Red Cross is a basic tenet of international humanitarian law. Violating a basic tenet of humanitarianism, in my view, is enough to disqualify an association or individual that calls itself humanitarian.

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