‘Now I’m Free’: Trans Influencer Jailed for 5 Years for Being Trans Speaks Out
Written by Ben Hunte
BRUSSELS – Shakiro – a transgender social media star – has given her first interview since she escaped from her home nation of Cameroon and arrived in Europe as a refugee.
Speaking exclusively to VICE World News, I joined her in Belgium, where she has recently been granted asylum.
Strutting across one of Belgium’s several rainbow crossings, Shakiro – who goes by one name – confidently stops traffic. She’s waving her pride flag, while wearing a bright pink jumpsuit and fluffy pink shoes. She knows she stands out here – and locals stop to take photos with her, proving that – but she tells me she loves it. This is a massive change from what she was going through just a few weeks ago.
Sitting in a cafe in Brussels, Shakiro told me how the experience of being locked up in Cameroon – just for being trans – has completely changed her.
“I remember the day I was in court and I was told that I was being sentenced to five years in prison for ‘attempted homosexuality.’ I collapsed,” Shakiro recalled, with tears in her eyes.
“I just wanted to drink something and die. My legal team was trying to make me feel better, telling me they would be working to set me free, but that sentence was like a death sentence. I didn’t think I would survive.”
Shakiro was arrested in Douala, Cameroon, in February 2021. She had just finished work, and was in a restaurant eating fried fish with her friend Patricia – who is also a trans woman and goes by one name.
“I saw police cars and I knew there would be trouble. One of the policemen asked me for my ID, but as a trans woman in Cameroon you don’t carry ID, because your identity is actually different to what your ID shows.”
Shakiro was put in a police car, where she was repeatedly quizzed about being a queer social media influencer.
“I had to sleep in the cell overnight, and the next morning I was taken directly to court. I was told that I was being charged with ‘attempted homosexuality’ which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, then I was taken to a nearby prison.”
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