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Cameroon president's daughter hints at same-sex romance where LGBTQ is illegal

Brenda Biya, the daughter of Cameroon's long-serving president, Paul Biya, has ignited a storm of reactions after posting a photo on Instagram where she is seen kissing Brazilian model Layyons Valença. The image has provoked a range of responses in Cameroon, where same-sex relationships are illegal and heavily stigmatised.

Cameroon president's daughter hints at same-sex romance where LGBTQ is illegal

The 26-year-old musician, who goes by the stage name King Nasty, captioned the post, "I’m crazy about you & I want the world to know,” accompanied by a heart emoji. Her father, Paul Biya, has been in power since 1982, making him one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders.

Same-sex acts in Cameroon can result in up to five years in prison, and while Brenda Biya did not explicitly disclose her sexual orientation, her post has been interpreted by many as a bold statement. Shortly after the post, she shared an article from the French newspaper Le Monde, which reported that she had "come out."

She also reposted supportive messages from her followers.

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Among those praising Brenda Biya is Shakiro, a transgender activist now residing in Belgium after seeking asylum following her conviction for “attempted homosexuality” in Cameroon. Shakiro expressed hope that Brenda’s post could be a "turning point for the LGBTQ+ community in Cameroon," commending her for positioning herself as a voice for social change in a country where such issues remain deeply taboo.

However, the reaction in Cameroon has been far from universally supportive. Many social media users responded with homophobic remarks, and speculation has arisen about whether Brenda’s post was intended to stir controversy, as she has previously been known to do. There are also discussions about whether her prominent status affords her a level of protection not available to ordinary Cameroonians facing persecution for their sexuality.

LGBT activist Bandy Kiki highlighted this disparity in a Facebook post, stating, “I love this for Cameroon’s First Daughter, but it highlights a harsh reality: Anti-LGBT laws in Cameroon disproportionately target the poor. Wealth and connections create a shield for some, while others face severe consequences.”

Cameroon’s strict anti-LGBT laws have faced significant criticism from human rights organisations. Human Rights Watch, in 2022, called on the country to revoke these discriminatory laws and uphold the human rights of all Cameroonians, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Barrister Alice Nkom, a renowned human rights lawyer, praised Brenda Biya as a "model of courage" who is sending a powerful message of love and acceptance.

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Despite the international attention, Cameroonian media outlets have largely refrained from covering the story, likely due to the risk of sanctions from the media regulatory body for depicting homosexuality.

The government and President Paul Biya have not issued any official statements regarding Brenda’s post.

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