Cameroonian transgender activist arrives in Belgium after receiving asylum

InfoMigrants | A transgender activist from Cameroon has arrived in Belgium, where she was given asylum. Despite suffering violent attacks, she had to spend over a year in exile in Nigeria while her claim in Belgium was being processed.

Shakiro, who goes by the one name, is a transgender woman, whose divisive case made headlines in her native Cameroon.

She was given a five-year prison sentence in May 2021 for denouncing Cameroon’s laws banning homosexuality. While appealing the ruling a few months later, she was released from custody.

Shortly thereafter, she and another transgender woman were brutally beaten by a mob in Douala, according to reports carried by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

After the attack, Shakiro applied for a humanitarian visa from Belgium, having fled to neighboring Nigeria first.

One year in limbo

It then took over a year for her asylum to be granted. Her lawyer Alice Nkom told the AFP news agency that she eventually “was granted asylum in Belgium and left Lagos for Brussels with the utmost discretion.”

Nkom added, however, that Shakiro’s appeal of the homosexuality conviction was still pending back in her home country.

There have been no comments from authorities in Cameroon on any of these developments, according to AFP, which submitted multiple requests for comments.

Homosexuality in Africa

Homosexuality convictions in Cameroon carry prison terms of between six months to five years as well as hefty fines.

Cameroon is just one of many African countries, in which same-sex relationships and transgender issues are illegal. In some African nations like Uganda, discrimination towards gays and lesbian as well as against transgender people is considered to be endemic.

Many of the existing laws against homosexuality across Africa, however, date back to the 19th century and focus on puritanical morals. While the countries, which had colonized Africa, have long abandoned anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, the same laws remain on the books in African countries.

The only African nation in which homosexuality and trans identities are fully legal and protected by the law is South Africa. Since 2006, gay couples have been able to marry there.

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