Last Updated 10 January 2022

no person shall be harassed on grounds of his origin, religious, philosophical
or political opinions or beliefs, subject to respect for public policyThe Republic of Cameroon population is estimated to be 27.7 million,1 and is composed of more than 275 ethnic groups.2

70% of the population is Christian, 18% Muslim, 3.3% animist, and 5.5% reports no religious affiliation.3 Many members of other faiths also adhere to some aspects of animist beliefs.4

There are correlations between religion, language, ethnic group and region. Christians are concentrated in the south and west of the country. Anglophone regions are largely Protestant, and the southern Francophone regions are mostly Catholic. The Fulani (Peuhl) ethnic group is mostly Muslim and lives primarily in the northern Francophone regions; the Bamoun ethnic group is also predominantly Muslim and lives in the West Region.5

The president has been in office since 1982. He illegitimacy exerts control over the legislative and judicial branches of government.6 Members of the President’s ethnic group hold key positions and are disproportionately represented in the government, state-owned businesses, and security forces.7 The judicial branch of government is weakened by corruption, political influence and undue control by the executive. The president appoints judges, and can dismiss them at will.8

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

Article 1 of the Constitution9 declares Cameroon to be:

The Republic of Cameroon shall be a decentralized unitary State. It shall be one and indivisible, secular, democratic and dedicated to social service. It shall recognize and protect traditional values that conform to democratic principles, human rights and the law. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law.

In its preamble, the Constitution makes asserts that the State shall follow the principles of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, including that “freedom of religion and worship shall be guaranteed” along with the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. It asserts that,

“We, the people of Cameroon, Declare that the human person, without distinction as to race, religion, sex or belief, possesses inalienable and sacred rights.”

The preamble also states that, “no person shall be harassed on grounds of his origin, religious, philosophical or political opinions or beliefs, subject to respect for public policy.”

Institutional discrimination against the non-religious

The law on freedom of association does not recognize belief groups and limits organized activity to religious groups. Only religious congregations are allowed to register, they are defined as “any group of natural persons or corporate bodies whose vocation is divine worship” or “any group of persons living in community in accordance with a religious doctrine.”10;

The state-sponsored television station and radio stations regularly broadcast Christian and Islamic religious services and ceremonies on national holidays and during national events.11

Government ministers and other officials often attended these ceremonies.12

Education and children’s rights

The government provides subsidies to all private primary and secondary education institutions, including those operated by religious denominations. Unlike public schools, private schools may offer religious education.13

Many children are deprived of their right to education due to schools closing because of the ongoing armed conflict. Attacks and kidnappings of students and teachers at those schools are frequent.14; At least 70 schools have been attacked since 2017.15 Separatist groups have also carried out hundreds of kidnappings. Human Rights Watch documented 268 abductions of students and education professionals since 2017.16;

Child marriage

Reports show a gender disparity in education, the literacy rate in 2019 was 86% for women and girls, compared to 97% for boys and men.17 UNICEF’s 2018 child marriage data show that 31% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before they turned 18 and, of these, 10% were married before they turned 15.18

Child marriages are more prevalent in the northern part of the country.19 Over 22% of girls aged 15-19 have experienced sexual violence, notably within the context of child marriage.20

Conflict with Boko Haram has exacerbated the already prevalent practice of child marriage and sexual abuse of minors in the Far North Region.21 In northern Cameroon, marriage is used as a way to recover a family’s debts.22 The conflict in northern Cameroon cause loss of assets, reduced incomes and increased seclusion of girls which can lead families to see child marriage as a way to meet their needs.23 Crises exacerbate factors that drive child marriage also include insecurity and lack of access to services such as education.24

Family, community and society

Freedom of religion or belief is restricted in northern areas affected by the presence of Boko Haram.25 Radicalization is reportedly increasing in the predominantly Muslim northern regions where it is said local residents “hate and threaten” those who convert from Islam.26

Armed conflict

The country has an ongoing armed conflict. Government forces, separatists and Islamist militias are all reported to have committed human rights abuses.27;; There is a lack of rule of law and violence against civilians, many attacks also have a religious profile. Boko Haram and ISIS-WA commit acts of mass violence within the Far North Region in an attempt to impose their religious and political beliefs.28;

Reproductive health and harmful practices

Societal pressures continued to reinforce taboos on discussing reproductive health within certain communities. Women face barriers in issues related to reproductive rights, such as needing their husbands’ consent in contraceptive decisions.29 A UN Population Fund (UNFPA) from October 2020 indicated that 48% of married or in-union women aged 15-49 made their own informed decisions regarding their reproductive healthcare.30

Section 356 of the Penal Code31 criminalizes forced or early marriages, however the issues are still widespread.

Harmful practices against women persist as a prevalent issue. Such include female genital mutilation, breast ironing, discriminatory widowhood rights, and kidnapping of children, including young girls, for the sale of organs or magic or religious/magic practices. There are no laws specifically outlawing female genital mutilation (FGM) or breast ironing.32, para. 62-63

Discrimination against women

Cameroon has discriminatory legal provisions, including polygamy, the husband’s role as the head of household, the administration of family property and of the wife’s property by the husband, and the lower minimum age of marriage for women than for men.33, para. 43

The law does not address spousal rape and Article 297 of the Penal Code34 states that rape shall not be prosecuted if the victim and the offender are subsequently married. Rape cases are rarely investigated or prosecuted, especially since victims often did not report them.35

Cameroon criminalizes abortion in Articles 337-339 of the Penal Code, women are required to obtain certification from the prosecutor before attaining a legal abortion.36,  para. 50;

Traditional legal values and practices often take precedence over the formal law and discriminate against women.37

In many regions and especially rural areas, women are still dispossessed of their inheritance rights.38 Women generally do not own land, the right of ownership is divided amongst the men of a family.39, para. 27; certain legal provisions that discriminate against women, in particular in the Civil Code, and that bar women from certain types of employment.40


Rights organizations report significant stigma, violence, and discrimination towards LGBTI+ individuals from their families, communities, and the government.41 Reports indicate security forces harass persons on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, including individuals found with condoms and lubricants.42

Consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence lasting between six months and five years.43, para. 8;

Section 242 forbids exclusion “from any place open to the public or from any employment, by reason of his race, religion, sex or health status”.44 However no legal text explicitly prohibit Legal Discrimination against LGBTI+ persons, which is problematic in housing, employment, nationality, and access to government services such as healthcare.45

On 24 February 2021, the police raided the office an HIV prevention and treatment organization and arrested 13 people on homosexuality charges, including 7 of the staff. All were released a few days later. Reports show that the police assaulted three of the staff and threatened and verbally assaulted all those arrested.46 Human Rights Watch (HRW) previously documented that prosecutors in Cameroon have introduced medical reports based on forced anal exams into court, contributing to convictions of individuals charged with consensual homosexual conduct.47

Article 347 of the Penal Code states that “Whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment for from 6 (six) months to 5 (five) years and a fine of from CFAF 20 000 (twenty thousand) to CFAF 200 000 (two hundred thousand).”48

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values


Cameroon criminalizes contempt of religion under Section 241 of the Penal Code.49 Such offenses are punishable by a fine and up to one year in prison.

Section 241: Contempt of Race or Religion (1) Whoever commits a contempt, within the meaning of section 152 of this Code, of the race or religion of a number of citizens or residents shall be punished with imprisonment for from 6 days to 6 months and with a fine of from CFAF 5,000 (five thousand) to 500,000 CFA francs. (2) Where the offense is committed by means of the press or wireless the fine may extend to 20,000,000 CFA francs. (3) Where the offense is committed with intent to arouse hatred or contempt between citizens, the penalties provided by the foregoing subsections should be doubled.

Under Section 152 of the Penal Code, a “contempt” is defined as:

A contempt shall mean any defamation, abuse or threat conveyed by gesture, word or cry uttered in any place open to the public, or by any procedure intended to reach the public

No cases have been found by researchers.

Media freedom

According to RSF, press freedom continues to decline in Cameroon, which is now one of Africa’s most dangerous countries for journalists.50 Reporters are often detained arbitrarily and prosecuted, including by military tribunals and special courts using the 2014 Terrorism Law.51

Journalists report practicing self-censorship to avoid repercussions, including financial repercussions, for criticizing or contradicting the government, in addition to fear of reprisal from non-state actors.52

Defamation remains a criminal offense, and the National Communications Council (CNC), a media regulatory body, persists in harassing journalists and outlets.53

Separatist groups in the Southwest and Northwest Regions also limit the freedom of expression. Journalists in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions are attacked by separatists because of critical reporting and their refusal to broadcast rebel propaganda.54

Curtailing the operation of NGOs

Recognition of political parties, NGOs, and associations is complicated and unevenly enforced.55 The government has restricted the work of international NGOs, denying their staff access to the country.56

Government officials harassed local NGOs, limited access to prisoners, refused to share information, and threatened violence against NGO personnel. The government has taken no action to investigate or prevent such occurrences.57

Activists are also targeted by different actors, which in turn restricts the freedom of speech, assembly, and association.58

The ability to organize in political groups, and their freedom to operate, is severely limited, and opposition leaders risk arrest and imprisonment. Frequent harassment, intimidation, and arrests of opposition figures hinder the opposition from consolidating. Despite the existence of hundreds of registered political parties, Cameroon remains essentially a one-party state.59 Public criticism of the government and membership in opposition political parties can have negative consequences for professional opportunities and advancement.60


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 26, 29, 30, 41, 42
6, 7, 17, 18, 19, 35, 45, 52, 54, 55, 57, 58
8, 21, 25, 37, 38, 53, 56, 59, 60
22, 24
31, 34, 44, 48
32, para. 62-63
33, para. 43
36,  para. 50;
39, para. 27;
43, para. 8;
50, 51

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