Trans women stripped naked, beaten and threatened by mob after escaping prison ‘hell’ in Cameroon

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

Two Cameroonian trans women were filmed being stripped and beaten by a vicious mob shortly after their release from prison.

Shakiro and Patricia were arrested on 8 February for wearing women’s clothes in a restaurant. They were both sentenced to five years in prison on arbitrary “homosexuality” charges, part of an uptick in police action against sexual minorities in Cameroon.

Their case immediately captured the attention of international human rights groups and thanks to sustained pressure they were released from prison on 13 July pending their appeal.

Unfortunately their ordeal has continued outside prison, as Shakiro told Human Rights Watch that a violent mob attacked her and Patricia on 8 August at about 1am in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital.

She said the attackers pulled them out of a taxi, insulted and threatened them with death, and beat them for about 30 minutes before fleeing when police intervened. A video circulated on social media captured the assault.

“I was stripped naked and hit everywhere on my body by several people,” Shakiro said. “I was kicked and slapped. I had to play dead – it was the only way to survive.”

Shakiro and Patricia have filed a police complaint against their attackers, but have little hope of obtaining justice in Cameroon, where LGBT+ discrimination is institutionalised.

Human Rights Watch is now calling on the government to recognise its obligation to protect all Cameroonians. They also urge authorities to ensure that Shakiro and Patricia get access to justice and act swiftly to repeal the anti-homosexuality law.

Trans women endured five months of ‘hell’ in Cameroonian prison

Patricia and Shakiro described horrifying conditions in jail, including being forced to sleep with chains around their legs.

“Prison is hell. It’s hellfire. Especially when they accuse you of homosexuality,” Shakiro told Reuters. “They put chains on our legs, something that is not normal. That day we slept with those chains and we paid money for them to remove the chains.”

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

“They are going to leave this prison hell where they don’t belong and where they risked extreme violence every day,” she said after their release.

“We are not going to stop there. We must explain to people that a court must never again convict LGBT people in this way.”