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Cameroon’s First Daughter Sparks Debate With Same-sex Kiss Photo

BRENDA Biya, the 26-year-old daughter of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, has ignited controversy by sharing an image on Instagram showing her kissing Brazilian model Layyons Valença. The post, which includes the caption, ‘I’m crazy about you & I want the world to know,’ with a heart emoji, has garnered mixed reactions in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison.

President Paul Biya, 91, who has been in power since 1982, is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. His daughter’s post has sparked debate and highlighted the stark contrast between public figures and ordinary citizens regarding LGBTQ+ rights in Cameroon.

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Brenda Biya, who is also a musician known as King Nasty, did not explicitly state her sexuality in the post. However, she later shared an article from Le Monde in which the French newspaper reported that she had ‘come out.’ Following the post, she received both support and criticism from social media users in Cameroon and beyond.

BBC reported that transgender Cameroonian activist Shakiro praised Brenda’s post, suggesting it could be a ‘turning point for the LGBTQ+ community in Cameroon.’ Shakiro, who sought asylum in Belgium after being convicted of ‘attempted homosexuality’ in Cameroon, said Brenda ‘is now positioning herself as a voice for social change in a country where taboos are deeply rooted.’

However, the post also attracted a wave of homophobic comments. Some critics speculated whether Brenda shared the picture to generate attention, given her history of controversial social media posts. Others questioned whether coming out is a privilege only accessible to a select few in the country.

LGBT activist Bandy Kiki highlighted the disparity in the enforcement of anti-LGBT laws in Cameroon, noting that wealth and connections can provide protection for some, while the less privileged face severe consequences. ‘I love this for Cameroon’s First Daughter,’ Bandy Kiki said on Facebook. ‘However, it highlights a harsh reality: Anti-LGBT laws in Cameroon disproportionately target the poor.’

Human rights groups have long criticised Cameroon’s strict laws against the LGBT community. In 2022, Human Rights Watch urged the Cameroonian government to ‘revoke this discriminatory law and ensure that the human rights of all Cameroonians, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics, are upheld.’

Barrister Alice Nkom, a renowned human rights lawyer defending LGBT people in Cameroon, called Brenda a ‘model of courage’ who is ‘sending an important universal message of love.’

Despite the widespread discussion on social media, most Cameroonian media outlets have not reported on Brenda’s post, likely due to the media regulatory body’s history of sanctioning depictions of homosexuality. The government and President Biya have not officially commented on the matter.

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