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Homosexuality in West Africa: Cameroon president’s daughter kisses woman triggers debate

Homosexuality in West Africa: Cameroon president’s daughter kisses woman triggers debate
Homosexuality in West Africa: Cameroon president’s daughter kisses woman triggers debate

Anyone who is homosexual in Cameroon must live in fear – or flee abroad. From there, the daughter of the long-standing autocrat is now causing a stir.

Cameroon’s presidential daughter Brenda Biya has sparked a discussion about the ban on homosexuality in the central African country with a kissing photo on Instagram. “I’m crazy about you and I want the world to know,” is written under the photo in which 26-year-old Biya, who performs as a rapper under the name King Nasty, kisses an extravagantly dressed young woman – the Brazilian model Layyons Valença. Both women live in Geneva, Switzerland. In Biya’s home country, homosexual acts are punishable by law, as in around 30 other African countries. Same-sex sex can be punished by at least six months to five years in prison.

“I am so proud of your courage”

Cameroonian and international media pounced on the fact that the only daughter of Paul Biya, the head of state who has been in office for over 40 years – the oldest president in the world at 91 – had come out as a lesbian. Brenda Biya herself did not disclose her sexual orientation or the nature of her relationship with Valença, but shared headlines about her coming out and voices from supporters.

The LGBTQI+ community in Cameroon celebrated the president’s daughter for the photo. The English acronym LGBTQI+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, other identities and genders. “I am so proud of your courage and your path. Thank you, Brenda,” commented Cameroonian lawyer Alice Nkom, who campaigns for the rights of homosexual people in Cameroon.

“I am so happy for Brenda Biya and I think it’s great that she felt empowered to share this with the world,” Bandy Kiki, a Cameroonian LGBT activist living in the UK, told the German Press Agency. Shakiro, a transgender woman who found asylum in Belgium after spending six months in prison in Cameroon and was beaten by a mob after her release, also praised Biya’s courage and strength.

Critics say not everyone is equal before the law

Conservative voices in the predominantly Christian country expressed predictable criticism. Homophobic comments also accumulated under Biya’s Instagram posts. “Homosexuality is against nature, and everything that is against nature is against God,” the chairman of the Cameroonian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya, told dpa. “We can only pray for them,” he added.

Biya’s photo also sparked a debate about double standards. More than 20 people are currently in prison in Cameroon for homosexual practices, wrote journalist Boris Bertolt. “Either Brenda Biya is arrested or everyone is released.” Activist Kiki told the dpa: “No one should be punished for who they are, regardless of their social class and status.”

Media in the coastal state with around 29 million inhabitants, where freedom of the press is severely restricted, remained largely silent. Paul Biya also did not react to the photo of his daughter in the days following the post. The president, who has been in office since 1982, is effectively considered a dictator despite elections that observers consider unfree and fraudulent. Regular stays in Switzerland and the luxurious lifestyle of his wife and three children are linked to years of corruption allegations against the Biyas.

Source: Stern

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