Cameroon’s President’s Daughter Comes Out as Lesbian, Challenges Anti-Gay Law

Brenda Biya

The daughter of Cameroon’s president has said she hopes that her coming out as a lesbian can help change the law banning same-sex relations in her country.

Brenda Biya told the Le Parisien newspaper that there were many people in her situation and she hoped to inspire them.

The 27-year-old shared an image of her kissing another woman last week, sparking mixed reactions in Cameroon.

“I’m crazy about you & I want the world to know,” she said in the Instagram post with a picture of her embracing Brazilian model Layyons Valença.

In the interview with France’s Le Parisien, external, she said she had not informed anyone in her family before publishing the post.

“Coming out is an opportunity to send a strong message,” she said.

She added that she found the anti-gay law, which existed before her father came to power, “unfair and I hope that my story will change it”.

Paul Biya, 91, has been Cameroon’s president since 1982 and is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.

Ms Biya said she had been with the Brazilian model for eight months and had already taken her to Cameroon three times without telling her family they were in a relationship.

The musician, who lives abroad, said she had received many messages of support as well as negative reactions since posting about her relationship.

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She was happy to reveal her status, adding she wanted to give hope and “send love” to those suffering “because of who they are [and] help them feel less alone”.

It was her brother who called her first after the post, angry that she had published it without warning the family, she told Le Parisien.

Her parents, the president and First Lady Chantal Biya, later called wanting her to delete the post. “Since then, it’s been silence,” she said.

She said she had her first crush on a girl when she was 16, but said that it was difficult to express her love because of the situation in her country.

Same-sex relations are against the law in Cameroon and are punishable by up to five years in prison.

There has been no public comment by the president or the first lady.

A government official told the BBC the authorities had decided not to comment, as it was a family issue.

Rights groups that have been criticising Cameroon’s laws against same-sex relations have been praising Ms Biya’s revelation as a courageous move.

But questions have been raised about whether coming out is a privilege that can only be enjoyed by a select few in the country.

“Anti-LGBT laws in Cameroon disproportionately target the poor. Wealth and connections create a shield for some, while others face severe consequences,” LGBT activist Bandy Kiki earlier said in a post on Facebook, external.

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On Tuesday a group which backs the current laws filed a complaint against Ms Biya to the public prosecutor.

Philippe Nsoue from the DDHP Movement said they were seeking justice, saying that although Ms Biya was the president’s daughter, “no-one is above the law”.

“Whenever a Cameroonian citizen or foreigner commits acts that go against the [LGBT] situation in our country, we must seek judicial recourse,” he said.

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