In Cameroon, where homosexuality is repressed, the president’s daughter comes out

“Brenda Biya, daughter of Cameroonian President Paul Biya, has created shockwaves by publicly revealing her romantic relationship with another woman,” announces the Cameroonian news site Africapresse. On Sunday, June 30, the 26-year-old posted a photo on her Instagram account showing her kissing her partner, Brazilian model Layyons Valença. The post is accompanied by this caption: “PS: I’m crazy about you and I want everyone to know it.”

Brenda Biya has been showing her closeness to Valença for several months, sparking rumors about her sexual orientation. This publication seems to mark her coming out.

But “Cameroon remains a country where homosexuality is severely repressed,” remember Africapresse. The Penal Code provides for a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of 200,000 CFA francs (305 euros) for sexual relations between persons of the same sex. Therefore, this speech by the daughter of the Head of State “highlights the contradictions of the system.”

Open the debate

“In public opinion, reactions are very polarized, between support and condemnation”, says German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, who describes Cameroon as a “very conservative society on issues of morality and family values”.

Some LGBTQI activists have praised Brenda Biya’s courage, hoping that it is a prelude to the decriminalization of homosexuality: this is particularly the case for lawyer Alice Nkom and transgender media personality Shakiro, now exiled far from Cameroon. Questioned by the German Welle, Gay rights activist Hamlet Nkwain explains:

“I don’t think that his coming out on social media will directly lead to the decriminalization of homosexuality, but I do think it will open the door to new debates.”

Other messages are much more hostile. The outrageous criticism, often motivated by religion, is mixed with comments that denigrate Brenda Biya’s expensive lifestyle and the triviality of this controversy compared to the daily problems of Cameroonians. Based in Switzerland, Brenda Biya has launched a career as a rapper under the pseudonym King Nasty. In 2016, the site Africa Intelligence affirmed that his use of social networks was “to give nightmares to his dear parents”. As a young girl, she had shown herself “smoking improbable substances” or revealing taxi fares of several hundred dollars.

“Brenda Biya’s coming out has sparked a national and international debate. Despite the personal and social risks, her act represents a strong stance against the repression of gay rights in Cameroon. It remains to be seen whether this revelation will influence policies and societal perceptions in the long term,” concludes Africapresse.

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