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09/18/2014 05:02 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

In Cameroon, Drinking Bailey's And Other 'Feminine Behavior' Can Mean You're Gay And Going To Jail, Lawyer Claims

Jason Kempin via Getty Images

A Cameroonian attorney says that one of his clients was convicted of "feminine mannerisms" for drinking Bailey's Irish Cream under his country's strict anti-gay laws.

Attorney Michel Togue, who has defended many Cameroon residents who have been accused of homosexuality, tells ThinkProgress that very few of his clients were ever caught engaging in an actual same-sex act, as local police have made arrests based solely on how the individual is presented if an accusation has been made.

If a man is employed as a hairdresser, he said, or found to be cross-dressing, those attributes could be used as evidence that the suspect is gay in a court of law.

"To catch people having sex, to catch them in the act, you have to break the law. You have to violate their privacy, which is an offense,” he told the publication. “But the police will not focus on the offense of breaking the privacy of someone, but they will focus on the fact that they saw two people of the same gender having sex.”

Meanwhile, Togue explained that the nation's anti-gay laws were impacting HIV/AIDS outreach, as many patients "can’t go to the hospital for the treatment or even for a test because they’re afraid."

Last year, Human Rights Watch said that at least 28 people had been charged under Cameroon's anti-gay laws in the past three years, more than any other African nation.

Later in 2013, Joseph Omgbwa, 48, and 19-year-old Nicolas Ntamack were sentenced to prison terms under Cameroon's anti-gay laws, according to the Associated Press. A third suspect, Seraphin Ntsama, was acquitted.

Meanwhile, Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, who was declared a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International, died in January, the AP reported. Mbede, 34, had been jailed for sending a text message to another man, saying, "I'm very much in love with you."

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