shakiro

Cameroon transgender sentence exposes LGBTQ community to threats

The future looks bleak for Cameroon LGBTQ community generally following a five-year jail term of two transgender persons, Njeukam Loic Midrel aka Shakiro and accomplice, Mouthe Roland aka Patricia, for ‘attempted homosexuality’.

LGBTQ persons have faced harassment in Cameroon in the past, but this is the first time a popular transgender person with more than 5000 followers on Facebook and YouTube is detained for, “attempted homosexuality, indecent dressing and lack of identification papers”.

Shakiro with a huge YouTube following indicated that he felt good as a woman in one of his posts.

The sentence attracted huge media reports.  African Women in Dialogue started an online campaign to free Shakiro.

The verdict has brought about fear and increased threats in the LGBTQ community, (who we name CM for his security) a member, 25 years old, expressed concerns for his safety, in a phone interview.

‘We are exposed to insults, violence, and deprived of free movement, making life difficult for us. We are not as joyful as before, we are hiding”, he said on phone.

He adds, the situation is traumatizing, making us to feel isolated because of the hate from the homophobic Cameroonian community.

“The hate environment is a threat to our lives coming from reactions after the condemnation of Shakiro and Patricia. We don’t feel like normal people, we need help to get out of this country”, CM said.

The future looks bleak for Cameroon LGBTQ community generally following a five-year jail term of two transgender persons, Njeukam Loic Midrel aka Shakiro and accomplice, Mouthe Roland aka Patricia, for ‘attempted homosexuality’.

It was not until she left Cameroon that a popular LGBTQ rights defender, Bandi Kiki could openly express her sexuality, she told the BBC in a radio interview.

The arrest and detention

Shakiro, 23 and Patricia 27 were arrested and imprisoned on February 8 in a restaurant in Cameroon’s economic capital.

After four months of hearing and adjournments, the verdict was pronounced.

The Court of First Instance on May 11, sentenced Shakiro and Patricia to a five-year prison term and a $370 fine.

If they fail to honour this financial obligation, they would serve another 12 years in prison.

The ruling has been termed a violation of human rights and thus attracting international condemnation from rights groups and conversation overflowing on social media.

According to Barrister Alice Nkom, a human rights lawyer, defense counsel for Shakiro and Patricia, “Which law punishes trans for wearing a skirt for five years?

Nobody should be imprisoned for a simple suspicion; this opens the door to imprisonment without proof”?

The Cameroonian law criminalizes same sex relations and not homosexuality, Barrister Alice Nkom said.

Article 347 of the Cameroon penal code is titled ‘homosexuality’-punishes from six months to five years with a fine of FCFA 20 to FCFA 200,000 same sex persons in a sexual act, she added.

International rights groups, like the human rights watch  condemn the sentence, calling on government to release Shakiro and Patricia immediately and revoke the sentence.

The US embassy in Cameroon among others say government should ensure that individuals enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In 2016 Cameroon tightened its law by including the article on homosexuality in the penal code.  

The BBC reported, that in February, there were three murders of LGBTQ persons and 27 arrests in Cameroon.

Though there have been issues of shame around the families of LGBTQ persons, Shakiro’s father, Njuekam a retired civil servant, has accepted his son and has been supportive.

“My son does not deserve this kind of punishment, he has not done anything wrong to be locked behind bars”, the father said in a phone interview.

Case Appealed

Shakiro and Patricia have appealed the sentence, the file is to move to the Appeal Court for hearing to begin, Barrister Richard Tamfu said.

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