Brenda Biya, the daughter of Cameroon’s president, comes out

Cameroonian President Brenda Biya’s daughter, aka King Nasty, and her partner, Brazilian Layyons Valença. Photo posted on her Instagram account on June 30, 2024. @KINGNASTYY/INSTAGRAM

The photo was posted on Instagram on Sunday, June 30, the last day of Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community. Brenda Biya, 27, daughter of Cameroonian President Paul Biya, appears kissing her partner, Brazilian model Layyons Valença. This is not the first time that the two women have shown their closeness on social media. But this time, King Nasty, whose rapper pseudonym has more than 300,000 subscribers, has put an end to the rumors. In the photo, we see Brenda Biya and Layyons Valença embracing in an elevator: “I’m crazy about you & I want everyone to know it”is written in the caption of the publication.

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The photo might have gone unnoticed if it were not about the daughter of the head of state where homosexuality is a crime. Since 2016, article 347-1 of the Cameroonian Penal Code provides for up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 200,000 CFA francs (305 euros) in the event of sexual intercourse between two people of the same sex.

Convictions are not uncommon, while “Since the 2000s, the development of LGBTQ+ movements internationally and the global response to HIV have reinforced stigma and violence against homosexual people in Cameroon”explains anthropologist Patrick Awondo, director of the Center for Research on Gender and Discrimination at the University of Yaoundé I. A sign of the sensitivity of the subject, Brenda Biya has also disabled the possibility of commenting on her photo.

A hope

This “coming out” from a famous child was welcomed as a hope by Cameroonian LGBTQ+ rights organizations that mentalities are changing. “I salute the courage of Brenda Biya, who assumes her fundamental right to love and be loved”reacts to the Monde Lawyer Alice Nkom, a leading figure in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Cameroon. She was notably the lawyer of Shakiro, a transgender woman who was attacked in the street in Douala and then sentenced in 2021 to five years in prison in Cameroon before being forced into exile in Belgium two years later.

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For Nkwain Hamlet, director of the gay rights organisation Working for our Wellbeing in Cameroon, this is an opportunity to put the issue back into the public debate: “Before, it only came from the activist community, but now that the subject concerns the presidential family, things could change.”

In a message on X, the activist called on President Paul Biya to open the debate on the decriminalization of homosexuality: “Being able to enjoy sexual freedom should never be a privilege,” he writes, convinced that better access to education would also be necessary to confront homophobia. “As long as you are protected by your social class, you are not exposed to the same repression.”analyses anthropologist Patrick Awondo. Brenda Biya, for her part, is sheltered from Cameroonian law: the daughter of the Cameroonian president is based in Switzerland.

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