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Will Cameroon repeal anti-LGBT law after First Daughter came out as a lesbian?

Brenda Biya published this photo of her kissing Layyons Valença (@Laoncita) on Instagram.

Brenda Biya published on her Instagram account this photo of her kissing Layyons Valença (@Laoncita) with a caption stating “I am crazy about you and want the world to know”.

LGBTI rights activists say the need to repeal Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality laws has become obvious, now that the daughter of longtime Cameroon President Paul Biya has acknowledged her love of another woman.

On Instagram, Brenda Biya on June 30 published a photo of her kissing her girlfriend, Layyons Valença (@Laoncita), with a caption stating “I am crazy about you and want the world to know”.

The Biya family went on the defense, while LGBTI rights activists welcomed the opportunity for discussion of the Article 347-1 of the Penal Code, which provides up to five years in prison for same-sex intimacy.

Brenda Biya’s brother, Dr. Georges Gilbert Baongla,  the oldest son (or godson) of Paul Biya and president of the small opposition Republican Party of Cameroon, issued a statement describing ongoing discussions of his sister’s Instagram post as attempts to discredit the Biya family. He warned that such attacks would have consequences. This is a free translation of his statement:

Georges Gilbert Baongla (Photo courtesy of Parti-Républicain /Jeune Afrique)

Georges Gilbert Baongla (Photo courtesy of Parti-Républicain /Jeune Afrique)


I inform the public about some small gossip that is made against my little sister Brenda Biya aimed at tarnishing the image of the presidential family — of which the father of the family remains the president of your Republic, Paul Biya, head of state, coupled with his illustrious wife Mrs. Chantal Biya.  The enemies of the Republic and those who are jealous will never destabilize this family. We have an enlightened respect for government  institutions and our Cameroonian community. I have a warning for anyone who dares to attack us: We will respond.

Dr. Georges Gilbert Baongla
President of the Republican Party of Cameroon
Oldest son of His Excellency Paul Biya

After seeing the Instagram post, Cameroonian lawyer Alice Nkom, a staunch LGBTQ+ rights advocate, suggested that Brenda Biya’s disclosure could lead to the repeal of Article 347-1. This is a free translation of her remarks:

Alice Nkom of Cameroon (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

Alice Nkom speaks at a conference on international LGBTI rights (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

Wow! Bravo, Brenda.

Bravo, bravo, bravo! It takes a lot of courage to be the daughter of the head of state of a country that represses homosexuality and to reveal one’s own sexuality in the best possible way. It takes a lot of courage and, my daughter Brenda, you have it! That’s what many Cameroonians lack today — courage.

You have sent a strong message to all those parents who dare to say, without hiding, without being ashamed of themselves, that they have a homosexual child. I congratulate your parents, who accept what you are.

I’m inviting you, the Cameroonian daughter of the head of state, to a national celebration. Don’t hesitate. Your courage can be crowned with a welcome change even for those who do not have your courage — Finally the homosexuals of Cameroon will be able to experience something new: The wicked law, Article 347 of the Penal Code, can disappear.

Your father, out of love for you, could say to himself  “I am a dad. My daughter is a lesbian. So what!” He can say that to legislators, to all other parents, to all elements of the LGBT community of Cameroon. And he can remove this wicked article from the Penal Code. … That’s all I need to say today. Welcome. We love you!

The LGBTI rights group Working for Our Wellbeing also expressed hope that Brenda Biya’s coming out would eventually lead to decriminalization of homosexuality in Cameroon:

Logo of Working for Our Wellbeing

Logo of Working for Our Wellbeing

A Moment of Hope: Brenda Biya’s Coming Out Sparks Debate on LGBTQ+ Rights in Cameroon

The recent public display of affection between Brenda Biya, daughter of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, and her girlfriend has ignited a wave of debate and hope for LGBTQ+ rights in the nation. The images circulated online during June – internationally recognized as Pride Month – have sparked a crucial conversation about the stark reality of LGBTQ+ existence in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalized.

While many have expressed joy and celebrated Brenda Biya’s courage in coming out, the significance of this event goes far beyond individual expressions of love. The act resonates with a nation grappling with a legal framework that continues to criminalize same-sex relationships under Article 347/1 of the Cameroonian Penal Code, leading to imprisonment and societal discrimination.

Brenda Biya’s public display of affection, coming from a family with significant political power, has prompted questions about the hypocrisy of a system that condemns same-sex relationships while seemingly allowing for such acts within privileged circles.

Prominent Cameroonian Barrister Alice Nkom, a tireless advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, expressed her joy at the display, yet many, including Nkwain Hamlet, Executive Director of Working for our Wellbeing, questioned the government’s stance.

Hamlet poignantly asked, “Will the same liberty and freedom Brenda Biya is enjoying be extended to all LGBTQ+ citizens as he urgently called on the government to start a possible reflection on the process of decriminalization to allow all citizens to be able to enjoy their sexuality within any fear and that the enjoyment of one’s sexuality should not be an issue of privilege.”

This moment has brought to the forefront a deeply rooted issue of inequality and hypocrisy within Cameroon. For years, homosexuality has been used as a tool by political leaders to gather support, often demonizing and criminalizing sexual and gender minority individuals while enjoying the freedoms they deny to others. This blatant disparity has fueled a cycle of fear, marginalization, and discrimination, disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable members of society.

The public response to Brenda Biya’s coming out offers a glimmer of hope. It has forced a necessary conversation, highlighting the urgent need for decriminalization and the protection of all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Working for Our Wellbeing and Women In Front, who are dedicated to advocating for the rights of all without discrimination has joined the chorus calling for the government to ensure Brenda Biya’s safety and to open a dialogue around this issue, leading to the eventual decriminalization of same-sex relationships. …

The time has come for Cameroon to move beyond the archaic laws that criminalize love and embrace a future where all citizens are treated with dignity, respect, and equality. These moment, while potentially fleeting, serves as a potent reminder that change is possible and that the pursuit of a just and inclusive society must be relentless. We stand in solidarity with all Cameroonians, born free and equal in dignity and rights, and we urge the government and all allies to join us in advocating for a Cameroon that welcomes diversity and embraces the fundamental human right to love and be loved without fear or discrimination.

Outside of LGBTQ rights activists, most discussion of Brenda Biya’s Instagram post did not include questions about Cameroon’s anti-LGBTQ laws.

For example, the non-governmental Cameroon News Agency did not discuss Article 347-1 other than to question whether it would be enforced in the case of the president’s daughter if she were to return to Cameroon:

Cameroon’s first daughter is a lesbian

The daughter of Cameroon’s long-serving president, Paul Biya, has come out and declared that she is dating another woman called Laoncita. The Brazilian had been seen with Brenda Biya several times, though it was only suspicions.

Now the first daughter says she cannot hide it anymore, coming out as a Lesbian on her official Instagram account.

“I am crazy about you and want the world to know,” she wrote.

Paul Biya, president of Cameroon, in 2022. He has been president since 1982. (Photo courtesy of VOA and AFP)

Paul Biya, president of Cameroon, in 2022. He has been president since 1982. (Photo courtesy of VOA and AFP)

One Instagram user engaged her in the discussion, reminding her that where her father is the President of Cameroon, LGBTQ is prohibited. But Brenda said, “Nobody will have anything to say because only love shall win”

She added, “I don’t condone hate, I think the mentality should change, but it will change once the people are ready.”

An ordinance issued in September 1972 by President Ahmadou Ahidjo introduced Article 347 which is now 347-1 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes gay practices.

Since then the courts have judged and sanctioned persons who openly declared the practice of gay or lesbianism in Cameroon. The question remains if President Paul Biya, the first enforcer of law will allow her lesbian daughter to bring her girlfriend to Cameroon.

Source: African Human Rights Media Network member Erasing 76 Crimes.