Trans women jailed for five years for ‘attempted homosexuality’

Cameroon: Trans women slept chained up in men's prison

Two trans women have been sentenced to five years in jail for “attempted homosexuality” in Cameroon.

Mildred Loic and Moute Rolland were arrested earlier this year for wearing women’s clothing while dining in a restaurant in Douala, a coastal city and one of the central African country’s industrial hubs.

Appearing in court on Tuesday (11 May), Loic and Rolland received the maximum possible sentence of five years in prison as well as a fine of 200,000 CFA francs, their lawyers confirmed to Reuters.

If they are unable to pay the fines, they risk an additional 12 months in prison, the BBC confirmed.

Alongside the charge of “attempted homosexuality”, the pair were convicted of public indecency and failing to carry identification.

To their lawyers and LGBT+ rights campaigners, the swift and devastating punishment pulls into focus the hostility trans people face in Cameroon.

“It’s a hammer blow,” one of their lawyers, Alice Nkom, told the AFP news agency.

“It’s the maximum term outlined in the law. The message is clear: homosexuals don’t have a place in Cameroon.”

Nkom has vowed to appeal the verdict, with fellow lawyer Richard Tamfu stressing that the verdict itself is flimsy at best – prosecutors lacked proof, wielding only suspicions.

Loic is well-known on local social media as an influencer. A cosmetician, she went by Shakiro and boasts more than 100,000 Facebook followers, often discussing her gender identity.

Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon, carrying a sentence of five years, and a culture of fear has gripped the LGBT+ community in recent years. Local law enforcement raid out-of-sight queer bars, arresting and even torturing those inside.

Meanwhile, lesbian women are accused of witchcraft, made to drink animal blood, chained up and gang-raped to “cleanse” them of their sexuality.

And these cruel crackdowns are only rising, activists warn, with vigilante executions, beatings being commonplace and tolerated by the authorities, according to GLAAD.

“We have observed a resurgence in homophobic attacks this year,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“It is common for people to be abused in detention.”