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Cameroon president’s daughter says she is a lesbian, pleads for LGBTQ respect

YAOUNDE — Mixed reactions are swirling in Cameroon since Brenda Biya, the daughter of President Paul Biya, declared she is a lesbian. While LGBTQ activists see her declaration as an opportunity to push for greater rights in a country where same-sex relations are outlawed, anti-gay groups say they want Brenda Biya prosecuted.

Brenda Biya, the 26-year-old daughter of Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, said she has received what she calls tons of insults as well as congratulatory messages in the past seven days.

The president’s daughter set off a firestorm of reaction in Cameroon last week when she shared pictures on social media of herself kissing her girlfriend and expressing her wish for them to live in harmony as a couple. She said LGBTQ people in Cameroon should be spared violence and brutality.

In a video released Tuesday night, Brenda Biya She said LGBTQ people have been calling to tell her that as President Biya’s daughter, she stands a chance of moving Cameroon toward abolishing laws that criminalize same-sex relations.

Brenda said she wants to give hope and love to the many people in Cameroon who suffer simply because of who they are.

Reverend Father Humphrey Tatah Mbui is director of communications at the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon’s Roman Catholic Bishops. He said he was curious to watch the videos shared by Brenda because President Biya’s family members are practicing Roman Catholics.

Mbui said homosexuality, lesbianism or same-sex relationships are condemned by the church because it is sin against God’s teaching.

“The Church. however, is sympathetic towards people who find themselves in homosexuality, lesbianism or same-sex relationships. Just like Jesus Christ we condemn what is wrong, but we do not condemn the sinner because the sinner can always repent,” he said.

Mbui said the Church believes that if Brenda stops loving and having intimate relations with her female partner, God will reconsider her as his daughter.

Bandy Kiki is an LGBT activist. She said churches should allow LGBTI people to enjoy their lives without religious obstacles.

“There are some laws in the Bible which should absolutely not be accepted today — for example capital punishment, slavery etc., and I think the Catholic Church is realizing that because in recent times we have seen some changes. We recently heard the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, allowing priests to bless same-sex relationships.”

President Biya has not publicly commented on his daughter’s declaration. Brenda said she did not inform her family before sharing the videos on social media.

On Wednesday, the Cameroon Association for the Criminalization of Same Sex Marriages said it had filed a complaint against Brenda for promoting an illegal activity in the central African country.

Officials of Cameroon’s Ministry of Justice say they have received and will examine the complaint.

Cameroonian law prohibits sexual relations with a person of the same sex and imposes a penalty of between six months to five years imprisonment on people found guilty.

Rights groups say that Cameroon’s police target public gatherings of LGBTQ people, and thugs regularly beat people suspected to be same-sex couples. 

Rights groups say about 16 people are currently in prison for alleged consensual same-sex conduct or gender nonconformity. VOA could not independently verify that number. 

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