The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cameroon has said during Christmas Day Mass that same-sex marriage is a "crime against humanity," striking a clear message that the African country intends on remaining firm in its conservative principles.
"Marriage of persons of the same sex is a serious crime against humanity," Victor Tonye Bakot, told followers on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
"We need to stand up to combat it with all our energy. I am particularly thankful to our local media that has been spreading this message of it as a criminality against mankind."
Gay activities in Cameroon are considered illegal, punishable by fines and prison, with the nation's Catholic Church strongly opposed to gay marriage. Like many other countries around the world, however, younger people are more willing to support a change in attitudes towards gay people, Reuters noted.
At least 12 people have been convicted of homosexuality in Cameroon this year, the most recent case concerning 32-year-old Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, who was handed a three-year prison sentence for sending another man a text saying he loves him.
Catholics make up nearly 40 percent of the Cameroon population, with Protestants counting up to 26 percent, while another 21 percent are Muslims. The government has stated that it defends freedom of religion, but politics remain influenced by religious thought.
Gay rights activists often point out Africa as having a high number of anti-gay laws, though the most pressing concerns in the region remain in the country of Uganda, where a death penalty provision to an anti-homosexuality bill might still be approved.
International groups, including the U.S. government, have warned they will cut foreign aid to the Ugandan parliament if it goes ahead and makes gay activities punishable by death, but it still remains unclear what the final decision will be.
Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, who maintains that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman, has spoken out against the Uganda law and has said that it goes too far.
"An unjust law in Uganda is back in the news. I opposed it 3 yrs ago and I still do," Warren Tweeted recently in response to news of the possible death penalty provision.
Three years ago, Warren addressed Uganda pastors in a video message and said that it was not his role to interfere with the politics of other countries, but that he still has a duty to speak out on moral issues. The megachurch pastor opposed the anti-gay bill and insisted that it was "unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals."