Cameroon Sentences Transgender Women to 5 Years in Prison

Two transgender girls had been sentenced to 5 years in jail in Cameroon this week after they had been discovered responsible of “attempted homosexuality” and public indecency, the most recent instance of an rising crackdown on homosexual and transgender folks in the West African nation, human rights teams say.

Shakiro, recognized in police paperwork as Loïc Njeukam, and Patricia, referred to as Roland Mouthe, each establish as transgender and had been arrested in February as they had been having dinner at a restaurant in Douala, Cameroon’s financial capital. On Tuesday, they had been additionally discovered responsible of failing to present proof of id and given the utmost high-quality of 200,000 CFA francs, or $370.

Shakiro, a social media character who has amassed tens of hundreds of followers by means of her posts calling for more tolerance towards gender minorities in Cameroon, has stopped consuming and shared plans to die by suicide because the verdict, in accordance to her mom, Joséphine Marie Njeukam, who visited her in jail on Wednesday.

Ms. Njeukam stated her youngster informed her, “‘Mum, I won’t survive here for five years.’” She stated that her youngster didn’t kill anybody or steal, and that her sexuality “shouldn’t be a crime.”

Cameroon is considered one of greater than 30 African nations that criminalize homosexuality. In latest months legal professionals and human rights teams have raised alarm over what they describe as a rise in arbitrary arrests based mostly on sexual orientation and gender id in the nation.

More than two dozen folks had been arrested from February to April on expenses of homosexuality, according to Human Rights Watch, and several other of these arrested had been subjected to beatings and different types of abuse.

“There has long been an anti-L.G.B.T. sentiment in Cameroon,” stated Ilaria Allegrozzi, a researcher at Human Rights Watch who paperwork abuses in the nation. “Now the judicial system contributes to the perception that homosexual and transgender people are criminals.”

The sentence for Shakiro and Patricia, who each go by a single identify, is the utmost punishment underneath Cameroon’s penal code for participating in sexual activity with an individual of the identical intercourse. But the ladies’s lawyer says they had been detained whereas they had been having dinner in a public house, and weren’t intimate or trying to be.

Shakiro, 23, and Patricia, 27, had been at a restaurant in Douala on Feb. eight when law enforcement officials arrested them on expenses of failing to present id paperwork. The two remained in jail for 2 months awaiting trial, in accordance to their lawyer, Alice Nkom, and had been sentenced on Tuesday.

Ms. Nkom denounced the decision as politically motivated, and stated she had appealed the choice.

Cameroon’s justice ministry didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark.

According to a transcript of Shakiro and Patricia’s interrogation seen by The New York Times, law enforcement officials responded to a name from passers-by who stated the 2 had been kissing. Cameroon’s penal code doesn’t outline a kiss as sexual activity, and Ms. Nkom denied that they had been participating in any intimate exercise.

She additionally accused the officers of utilizing discriminatory language towards Shakiro and Patricia through the interrogation.

In the transcript, the officers wrote, “Surprised to see women with male names.” As Shakiro stated she recognized as transgender, the officer requested, “What does transgender mean?” and inquired a number of instances why she was dressing as a lady.

The proprietor of a magnificence salon in Douala who requested to be referred to by her first identify, Alice, as a result of she had acquired threats since defending Shakiro publicly, stated Shakiro had referred to as her from jail on Wednesday and had additionally shared suicidal ideas along with her.

Ms. Allegrozzi, the Human Rights Watch researcher, stated Cameroon has been more and more focusing on the L.G.B.T.Q. group. In one occasion, on Feb. 24, police forces raided the places of work of an L.G.B.T.Q. group in Baffousam, a metropolis 135 miles north of Yaoundé, the capital, and arrested 13 folks on expenses of homosexuality, together with a number of employees members of the group, generally known as Colibri.

Among these arrested was a 26-year-old girl who was compelled to endure an H.I.V. check and anal examination, in accordance to Human Rights Watch.

Prosecutors in Cameroon and several other different nations in Africa the place homosexuality is criminalized, together with Kenya, Tunisia and Uganda, amongst others, have in latest years commissioned anal examinations to allegedly prove that an individual had engaged in gay intercourse, despite the fact that the outdated apply has been extensively discredited by well being care professionals and quantities to sexual assault.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday condemned the sentences given to Shakiro and Patricia, and referred to as for his or her instant launch.

“For trans women, five years in a Cameroonian men’s prison can amount to a death sentence,” stated Neela Ghoshal, a senior researcher on L.G.B.T. rights with the group.

Ms. Njeukam, Shakiro’s mom, stated her youngster was as soon as a shiny scholar who had dreamed of changing into a choose, however who had dropped out of college due to the insults she had acquired.

Until her arrest, Shakiro bought wigs in a magnificence salon and labored as a make-up artist. In latest months, she has additionally attracted a wide following on social media, the place she has repeatedly referred to as for extra tolerance towards gay and transgender folks in Cameroon.

“My sexual orientation and my sexuality aren’t choices,” she wrote in March. “But your baseless hatred and your homophobia are.”

Linda Noumsi, a make-up artist and pal of Shakiro’s, stated her activism had attracted many critics. “She has a strong personality, and she can be quite vocal about her cause, which brought real supporters, fake friends, and enemies,” Ms. Noumsi stated.

Ms. Nkom, the lawyer, stated the decision despatched a pernicious message to the general public in Cameroon: “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.’”

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