Internet celebrity Shakiro, a transgender victim of discrimination and anti-gay stigma, has been criticized by many LGBTI Cameroonians for publicly coming out over a dozen allegedly gay local celebrities. She has now apologized for these allegations, even as she continues to denounce the mistreatment she suffered during her time in a Cameroonian prison last year.
By Ghislain J Nkontchou
Shakiro is a young Cameroonian who identifies as a woman – “a woman in the skin of a man”. She is also an online celebrity with a variety of Facebook pages showcasing her beauty products and campaigning for LGBTI rights.
Those Facebook Pages include a new one, Shakiro Original, which launched in July and already has more than 22,000 online followers.
A graduate of the University of Buea, she is fluent in French and English. Her birth name was Loic Njeukam.
Because of her appearance and sexual orientation, she has repeatedly been the victim of homophobic physical and verbal abuse. She was also arrested, most recently in May 2021, which earned her a five-year sentence for “attempted homosexuality.”
During her detention, she was verbally and sexually abused, which was made worse by the indifference of prison staff, she said.
“I was verbally abused by fellow prisoners every day,” she wrote on Facebook. “If I really am a gangrene to society, then my place was not in prison but in an insane asylum.
“Sending Shairo to prison in an environment where homosexuality is most widely practiced. Victim of a rape repeated many times by filthy bandits…
“I broke down when I was sentenced to five years in prison. The same Cameroonians who took the time to share my videos and encouraged me to be myself, you had to see the ridicule,” she explained.
After several months in detention, she was released pending an appeal against her sentence, which was won for her by Cameroonian gay rights advocate Alice Nkom, with support from national and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch.
Even after her sentence, she continued to be the target of homophobic and transphobic abuse, particularly on the Facebook pages where she flaunted her femininity.
Society mistreats her for something she didn’t choose, Shakiro protests.
“Being gay is not a choice,” she wrote. “In a world that throws so much hate at you, how can you choose to be gay? … It’s a bit like choosing to be born black in a racism-infected society.”
Frustrated, Shakiro took the controversial step of “outing” local celebrities. On July 24, 2022, Shakiro listed the names of about 10 alleged homosexuals in a live video (later deleted) on her Facebook page. Most of the people mentioned were young bloggers and online influencers. Neither of them had previously been publicly identified as gay.
A few days later she added another list, this time consisting of six Cameroonian musicians.
Many people protested Shakiro’s revelations. Some people noted that there is no evidence that the people quoted are gay, such as being part of the LGBTQIA community in Cameroon. Others stated that even if they were, Shakiro had no right to publicly name them.
Finally, identifying as LGBTI in Cameroon puts people at risk. Article 347-1 of the Criminal Code provides that sexual relations between persons of the same sex is punishable by imprisonment from six months to five years and a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs (about 30 to 300 US dollars).
A few days after making her claims about the 16 celebrities’ sexual orientation, Shakiro issued the following apology:
“I’ve made mistakes sometimes and I beg your pardon. I was young, naive and poorly surrounded. Many people took advantage of me and abused my generosity and fame. I forgive them because Shakiro chose to be reincarnated; because I could not get caught up in the mistreatment I had experienced in prison and outside of prison (beatings, insults, slander). I chose to be reincarnated in order to move forward and be the child prodigy that my late father wanted so badly. Dad, I love you and I miss you so much.”
The extent of the damage to themselves and the community is still being assessed.
Ghislain J. Nkontchou, the author of this article, is a human rights activist from Cameroon who is currently pursuing a PhD in international affairs at Baruch College in New York. He is Associate Editor of Erasing 76 Crimes.
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