CNI condemns arrest and detention of transgender women in Douala

Contra Nocendi International has been made aware of the detention of two transgender women in Douala, Cameroon on 9 February 2021. The two transgender women Mildred Loic (Shakiro) and Moute Rolland (Patricia) were arrested by gendarmerie officers (a paramilitary unit) at the Nkoulouloun neighbourhood of Douala, based on allegations of homosexuality.

Their arrest has gone viral because of how they were publicly paraded and videos shared on social media. Shakiro and Patricia are currently in pre-trial detention at the notorious New Bell prison where they are allegedly being subjected to torture and verbal abuse by prison guards and other prisoners. 

We received reports that the two women were questioned about their sexual orientation and coerced to sign a confession without allowing them to review their statement. They are said to have spent the night in a gendarmarie cell with more than 30 men in a 10-square-meter space where many detainees had to sleep on the floor.

On February 10, all efforts to secure their release at the court of first instance in Douala were futile, and their case was adjourned to March 10, 2021.

So far, we have been in contact with a Cameroonian LGBTI advocacy Organization Working For Our Wellbeing who have been helping to provide legal counsel and other assistance.

Homosexuality is considered a criminal offense in Cameroon. Lacking sufficient evidence to convict LGBTI individuals, in cases such as this the government typically resorts to prolonged pre-trial detention, torture and degrading treatment to dehumanise them.

We are deeply concerned by this as it appears that their detention is linked to their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. As an organisation, Contra Nocendi International fully supports and embraces sexual orientation and gender identity expression. When a state criminalises sexual conduct between persons of the same sex, the state tacitly condones and encourages violence inflicted upon LGBTIQ+ persons.

We are deeply concerned about the reports for these two detainees being subjected to torture and verbal abusing, including allegedly from detention centre staff. We remind the government of Cameroon that torture is absolutely prohibited, and its prohibition is a jus cogens norm of international law. There is never a justification for torture. Any infliction of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment is prohibited by international law and by any just society. We further remind the government of its obligation under the Mandela/Robben Island rules to take steps to prevent torture.

Contra Nocendi International is working with other organisations to support these two transgender women and will be actively monitoring their case, including their treatment while in detention. We stand with all SOGIE rights advocates in supporting SOGIE rights and call for an end to the targeting of people due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.