Transgender women, Patricia and Shakiro, were arrested by Cameroon authorities earlier this year while having dinner at a restaurant. The women were arrested under the suspicion of “attempting homosexuality”, for “violating public decency”, and for “issues” with their ID cards. The pair have been kept in detention ever since.
The pair were recently found guilty and now face five years in jail. Their lawyer, Alice Nkom, who is the leader of the Association for the Defence of Rights of Homosexuals told media outlets:
“It’s a hammer blow. It’s the maximum term outlined in the law. The message is clear: homosexuals don’t have a place in Cameroon.”
The women’s other lawyer, Richard Tamfu, stated that the women will appeal the verdict given there is no evidence of any homosexual acts – the women were just having dinner.
Patricia and Shakiro’s lawyers have reported that the women continue to struggle in the prison, experiencing daily threats and fearing for their lives. The women face a further 12 months added to their prison sentence if they do not pay the fine of 200,000 CFA francs (approximately €300).
The case has drawn widespread criticism for human rights organisations. Many argue that the decision to convict Patricia and Shakrio represents an abuse of the law by Cameroon and a calculated political decision. Particularly because the women were not engaged in sexual activity – they were having dinner at a restaurant. Shakiro (pictured above) has been noted for being outspoken on her persecution. She has a large online following on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, where she speaks freely and openly about her sexuality and gender identity.
Cameroon is one of 31 African countries that still criminalise gay sex. In February of this year, there were 3 LGBTQ+ people from Cameroon murdered and 27 arrests. A reporter for the BBC residing in Yaoundé, the country’s capital, outlined how “there is an animosity towards gay and transgender people in Cameroon and they can often be beaten up in public”. He also reported how “I’ve heard from people who have attempted suicide because of being blackmailed and ‘outed’ as their sexuality or gender identity”.
This is not the first time that Cameroon has made the headlines for their anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. In 2019, football player Stenie was fired and banned from every club in Cameroon after her lesbian identity was revealed.
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