A court in Cameroon last May 11 sentenced two transgender women to five years in prison for violating a law that forbids same-sex relations and for other offenses.
The court convicted local social media celebrity Njeuken Loic (known as “Shakiro”) and Mouthe Roland (known as “Patricia”) for “attempted homosexuality,” public indecency, and for failing to carry their identification cards.
The court also fined the transgender women with 200,000 CFA ($368) each, potentially facing additional 12 months in prison if they cannot pay, BBC News reported.
International non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for the release of the Shakiro and Patricia.
“For trans women, five years in a Cameroonian men’s prison can amount to a death sentence. The authorities should release them and vacate the charges immediately,” HRW said in a statement.
“Shakiro and Patricia are the latest victims of a system plagued by absolute disregard for the due process rights of people targeted based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” HRW also stated.
“It’s a political sentence sending a clear, chilling message: ‘We don’t want LGBT people here in Cameroon,'” Attorney Alice Nkom, who represents Shakiro and Patricia, said in the HRW statement.
“We ought to fight this and we will,” Nkom added.
Attorney Richard Tamfu, who also represents the transgender women, said that they will file an appeal against the verdict, citing that there was no evidence that homosexual acts were committed.
Authorities arrested Shakiro and Patricia in the city of Douala last Feb. 8 “for wearing typically female clothing,” according to HRW.
As one of the 31 African countries that criminalizes same-sex relations, Cameroon has previously handed people with years-long prison sentences over alleged homosexuality.
“Cameroon should repeal its anti-homosexuality laws and stop interfering in Cameroonians’ private lives,” HRW urged.
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