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Cameroon Trans Takes Belgium Refuge

FILE: Facebook image of transgender Shakiro. Uploaded May 17, 2021
FILE: Facebook image of transgender Shakiro. Uploaded May 17, 2021

A transgender woman whose conviction for "attempted homosexuality" in Cameroon prompted outrage has arrived in Belgium after more than a year of exile in Nigeria, her lawyer told AFP.

Shakiro, who goes by one name, gained prominence on social media with posts denouncing Cameroon's laws banning homosexuality, leading to her arrest and a five-year prison sentence handed down in May 2021.

A few months later, after being released while pursuing an appeal of the ruling, she and another transgender woman were dragged out of a taxi and brutally beaten by a mob in Cameroon's economic capital, Douala, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported.

Shortly after the attack Shakiro sought refuge in neighbouring Nigeria and applied for a humanitarian visa from Belgium, according to Alexandre Marcel, president of the Idaho France aid association for the LGBT community.

"She was granted asylum in Belgium and left Lagos for Brussels with the utmost discretion," her lawyer Alice Nkom said on Wednesday.

Shakiro's appeal of the homosexuality conviction is still pending, Nkom said.

Cameroon authorities did not respond to AFP requests for comments.

Discrimination towards gays and transgender people is widespread in Africa, and many countries have laws punishing same-sex relationships.

Homosexuality convictions in Cameroon can carry prison terms of six months to five years and fines of up to 200,000 CFA francs ($330), a huge sum in a country racked by poverty.