Two imprisoned transgender women in Cameroon have been ordered released from prison pending an appeal in their case.
The two women had been arrested in February on charges related to their gender identity, including for wearing women’s clothes. Reuters reports that they were each convicted of attempted homosexual conduct, public indecency, and failure to carry identification. They received the maximum sentence of five years in prison and fines of 200,000 CFA (around $360).
Alice Nkom, a civil rights lawyer and LGBTQ+ advocate who is representing the two women, told the news outlet that she expects both to be released on Friday. Their appeal is expected to be heard in September.
Breaking news 🇨🇲
Loïc Njeukam aka Shakiro and Patricia have been set free, according to Barrister Alice Nkom.
The two transgender women were sentenced to five years in prison in Cameroon in May 2021 after they were found guilty of “attempted homosexuality” and public indecency pic.twitter.com/igYIzIF7Dh
— Regina Sondo (@ReginaSondoM) July 13, 2021
One of the women, Shakiro, is a celebrity in Cameroon who, the BBC reports, advocates for tolerance of sexual minorities. Her social media following has helped garner attention for the case.
She and her friend, Patricia, were arrested while they were having dinner at a restaurant in the city of Douala.
Homosexuality remains illegal in many African countries, with LGBTQ+ individuals often persecuted by police and civilians for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Human Rights Watch reports that in the past year, police in Cameroon have stepped up arbitrary arrests, 27 between February and April for alleged homosexual conduct or gender nonconformity.
Following their conviction in May, Nkom told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the maximum sentence they each received was effectively a statement from the courts regarding the placement of LGBTQ+ individuals in the country. “It’s a hammer blow. It’s the maximum term outlined in the law,” she said. “The message is clear: homosexuals don’t have a place in Cameroon.”