Internet celebrity Shakiro, a transgender victim of discrimination and anti-gay stigma, has come under fire from many LGBTI Cameroonians by publicly exposing more than a dozen allegedly gay local celebrities. She has now apologized for making the accusations even as she continues to speak out about the mistreatment she suffered while in a Cameroonian prison last year.
By Ghislain J. Nkontchou
Shakiro is a young Cameroonian who identifies as a woman — “a woman in a man’s shoes”. She is also an online celebrity with a variety of Facebook pages where she demonstrates her beauty products and advocates for LGBTI rights.
These Facebook pages include a new one, Shakiro Original, launched in July, which already has more than 22,000 online followers,
A graduate of the University of Buea, she is fluent in French and English. His birth name was Loïc Njeukam.
Due to her appearance and sexual orientation, she has repeatedly been the victim of homophobic physical and verbal abuse. She was also arrested, the last in May 2021, which earned her a five-year prison sentence for “attempted homosexuality”.
While incarcerated, she suffered verbal and sexual abuse, compounded by the indifference of prison staff, she said.
“I have been insulted by fellow inmates every day,” she wrote on Facebook. “If I really am a gangrene for society, my place was not in prison, but in a mental asylum.
“Sending Shakiro to prison in an environment where homosexuality is the most practiced. Victim of rape repeated many times by dirty bandits…
“I crumbled when I was sentenced to five years in prison. The same Cameroonians who spent time sharing my videos and encouraging me to be myself, you had to see the mockery,” she said declared.
After several months behind bars, she was released pending an appeal of her sentence, which was won for her by Cameroonian gay rights lawyer Alice Nkom with the support of national and international organizations such than Human Rights Watch.
After prison, she was again the target of homophobic and transphobic insults, especially on the Facebook pages where she displays her femininity.
Society mistreats her for something she didn’t choose to be, Shakiro protests.
“Being gay is not a choice,” she wrote. “How can you choose to be gay in a world that exposes you to so much hate?… It’s a bit like choosing to be born black in a society infected with racism.
Frustrated, Shakiro made the controversial decision to “take out” local celebrities. On July 24, 2022, in a live video (later deleted) on his Facebook page, Shakiro listed the names of approximately 10 suspected gay men. Most of those named were young bloggers and online influencers. None of them had previously been publicly identified as gay.
She followed up a few days later with another list, this one made up of six Cameroonian musical artists.
Many people objected to Shakiro’s revelations. Some people noted that there was no evidence that the people cited were gay, such as being part of Cameroon’s LGBTQIA community. Others said that even if they are, Shakiro had no right to name them publicly.
After all, being identified as LGBTI in Cameroon puts people at risk. Article 347-1 of the penal code stipulates that sexual relations between people of the same sex are punishable by imprisonment ranging from six months to five years and a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs (approximately 30 to 300 U.S. dollars).
Days after making her statements about the sexual orientation of the 16 celebrities, Shakiro apologized with these words:
“I made mistakes sometimes, and I beg your pardon. I was young, naive and badly surrounded. Many people have taken advantage of me and abused my generosity and my notoriety. I forgive them because Shakiro decided to be reborn; because I could not stay stuck on the abuse experienced in prison and outside of prison (beatings, insults, slander). I decided to be reborn to move forward and become the child prodigy that my recently deceased father wanted so much. Dad, I love you and miss you so much.
The extent of damage to herself and the community is still being assessed.
Ghislain J. Nkontchou, the author of this article, is a Cameroonian human rights activist who is currently a graduate student in international affairs at Baruch College in New York. He contributes to the writing of Erasing 76 Crimes.