Trans women held in chains in men’s prison after being arrested for ‘attempted homosexuality’ in Cameroon

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

Two trans women convicted of “attempted homosexuality” and held in a men’s prison in Cameroon have described being forced to sleep with chains around their legs.

“Prison is hell. It’s hellfire. Especially when they accuse you of homosexuality,” said Shakiro, whose thousands of social media followers have given the case prominence, during an interview at her family’s house after being released from prison last Friday (16 July).

“They put chains on our legs, something that is not normal,” Shakiro said. “That day we slept with those chains and we paid money for them to remove the chains.”

Shakiro’s mum, Josephine Njeukam, told Reuters: “This day is the most beautiful day of my life because I did not believe that these children would make it out of prison with their health intact.”

Cameroon: Trans women arrested for ‘attempted homosexuality’

Shakira and Patricia were arrested in February on charges of “attempted homosexuality” for wearing women’s clothes in a restaurant. They were sentenced to five years in prison in May.

On 16 July, the pair were freed from what they called “prison hell” pending a court hearing of their appeal. A judge had ordered them both released from prison after uproar from human rights activists who denounced their arrests and the growing hostility towards LGBT+ people in Cameroon.

In April, Human Rights Watch said their arrests were part of “an overall uptick in police action” against sexual minorities in Cameroon.

Alice Nkom, the lawyer representing Shakiro and Patricia, said before their release that the women “risked extreme violence every day” that they were in prison.

“We must explain to people that a court must never again convict LGBT people in this way,” Nkom said.

Homosexuality is illegal in more than 30 African countries, with most anti-LGBT+ laws introduced when those countries were colonised by European nations and yet to be repealed.

In Cameroon it carries 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.