BY CHISOM PETER JOB.
A month ago, three trans women in Benin’s commercial city, Cotonou, were attacked outside a club. According to Amnesty International, these women describes it as “a trap set by their friend,” who had invited one of them out for a birthday party, and told her to come with her other friends. They added that “this friend kept pacing back and forth, and men we did not know took turns to sit beside us.”
While homosexuality isn’t criminalised in Benin, LGBTQ+ people face discrimination in the country. Specifically trans women. In a report by Amnesty International in 2020, at least two trans women were dehumanized by the police after they ended up in the station, with them getting beat up, their genitals getting photographed, and locking them up with male detainees. The trans community in the country are constantly attacked and threatened.
When the video of the three trans women trended, with one of the men in the video saying in Fon, “let’s call the police,” it was scary. Seeing as trans women are constantly dehumanized by the police, hearing that in the video made one worry about their safety.
In times like this, a question hangs on everyone lips, will there be justice? Justice sometimes seems like a myth when it comes to hate crime, specifically against trans women especially in Africa, but with Hirondelle Club; an LGBTQ+ organization taking over the case and going all out for these women, a court In Littoral today sentenced the attackers to at least six months in prison.
A victory for the LGBTQ+ community in Benin as this is the first documented case where there is a semblance of justice, but what happens to the trans women attacked? Since their video went viral, they have been staying in a safe house provided by Hirondelle Club, and one they shared that they can’t go back to their houses because people have been threatening them; from their parents to neighbours. They also shared that they can never get jobs again because lots of Beninese folks do not want to associate with trans people.
So with Pride month coming to an end, the question is, what can be done to better protect trans women and trans people in general?