Cameroon sentences trans women to 5 years in prison for ‘attempted homosexuality’
Cameroon is one of 30 African countries where homosexuality is illegal.
Two transgender women in Cameroon were sentenced to five years in prison this week.
According to the New York Times, the individuals received prison time for “attempted homosexuality” and public indecency. Human rights groups say their arrests are another example of discrimination against gay and transgender people in the West African nation.
Shakiro, who is being identified as Loïc Njeukam, and Patricia, referred to as Roland Mouthe, were dining in Cameroon’s economic capital of Douala at a restaurant when they were arrested back on Feb. 8, according to police documents.
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The police claimed to have received complaints of the two kissing, but their lawyer claims that is not true.
They waited in prison for two months before they were sentenced and were found guilty on Tuesday of also not providing proof of identity. Shakiro, 23, and Patricia, 27, who go by first names, received the maximum fine of 200,000 CFA francs, or $370.
Their lawyer, Alice Nkom, has appealed the decision and called it politically motivated.
“It says, ‘If you don’t like someone’s appearance because they are different, you can just call the police, and they’ll have them arrested,’” said Nkom, who said the prison sentence sends a message to the people of Cameroon.
Prior to the arrest, Shakiro was a social media personality known for speaking out about LGBTQ rights. She worked as a makeup artist and sold wigs.
“And I would like to say this, being Gay, hetero, trans, bi or whatever not gonna send you to hell. The only thing that going to keep you out off heaven is not being saved by Jesus Christ, this is what as a Christian I believe,” reads Shakiro’s Facebook page back in March.
“Now I’m sure there are mini-Gods on earth who think otherwise, I’ll let you believe in your beliefs. As far as I’m concerned, as a Christian, Jesus Christ is the only savior of our sins because there is not a number of goods that must be accomplished on earth in order to guarantee us heaven through our own efforts.”
Her mother said her child has been having suicidal thoughts while in prison and has stopped eating.
“She has a strong personality, and she can be quite vocal about her cause, which brought real supporters, fake friends, and enemies,” said a friend and fellow makeup artist, Linda Noumsi, who adds Shakiro’s activism has attracted critics.
‘Mum, I won’t survive here for five years,’” said Shakiro to her mother Joséphine Marie Njeukam after they visited on Wednesday. She added that Shakiro’s sexuality “shouldn’t be a crime.”
According to Human Rights Watch, more than two dozen people have been arrested in Cameroon for homosexuality between February to April. The country is one of 30 African countries where homosexuality is illegal.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called for the release of Shakiro and Patricia.
“For trans women, five years in a Cameroonian men’s prison can amount to a death sentence,” said Neela Ghoshal, a senior researcher on L.G.B.T. rights with the group.
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