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Benin: Police accused of violently attacking transgender woman

Beninese authorities must launch a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into a violent attack against a transgender woman by police officers, Amnesty International said today.

Nadia* told Amnesty International how she was taken to Pahou Police Station after being assaulted by residents of her neighbourhood in the city of Ouidah on 4 February. Instead of helping her, police officers beat Nadia with sticks and machetes, stripped her naked and photographed her.

There must be an urgent investigation into this horrendous attack. Not only was Nadia severely beaten by police officers, she was detained for three days, during which time she was forced to remain completely naked

Fabien Offner, West Africa researcher

“There must be an urgent investigation into this horrendous attack. Not only was Nadia severely beaten by police officers, she was detained for three days, during which time she was forced to remain completely naked. This is transphobia in its most vicious, hateful and deplorable form,” said Fabien Offner, West Africa Researcher at Amnesty International.

Nadia filed a complaint against the aggressors and the police officers of the Pahou Police Station for “intentional assault and battery, violence and assault, theft and indecent exposure” with the Ouidah prosecutor’s office, which acknowledged receipt of the complaint on 22 February.

In the complaint, Nadia 22, accused motorbike taxi drivers and residents of her neighborhood of beating, stripping, robbing and photographing her after they accused her and three other transgender friends of theft on 4 February.

The motorbike taxi drivers then took Nadia to the Pahou Police Station, where she says she was beaten, attacked with sticks and machetes, stripped naked again and photographed “to see what sex I really am”.

In testimony sent to Amnesty International, Nadia described the violence she suffered at the police station in detail, saying she was beaten, forced to remain naked, insulted and threatened with detention in a police cell “so that everyone there have sex with me”. She says the police made her lie on the ground while they kicked her and gagged her to stop her from screaming. She was then asked to wash in the shower, where other people in custody slapped her.

Nadia spent three days in detention, where she was deprived of food and forced to remain completely naked. She was released on 6 February without any charges being brought against her.

Her medical certificate, dated 9 February and examined by Amnesty International, concluded that she had suffered several wounds on both legs, her right ankle and her back, which left her unable to work for five days. Amnesty International has seen several photos that show the wounds.

This latest attack is a clear violation of the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Constitution of Benin, to which all individuals are entitled.

Fabien Offner

This is not the first time Amnesty International has documented transphobic violence in Benin. Last April, three transgender women were forced to undress before being beaten and robbed by a group of men in a bar in Cotonou, the capital of Benin. The attackers filmed the attack and shared videos on social media. Three organizations that seek to protect LGBTI rights received threats after publicly defending the three transgender women. On 30 June 2021, the Cotonou Court of First Instance sentenced one of the perpetrators to 12 months in prison, including six months suspended.

In its 2020-2021 report on the state of human rights in Benin, the Beninese Human Rights Commission described the situation for LGBTI people in the country as “worrying” and said “physical and sexual assaults, arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment” had all been inflicted on LGBTIQ+ people in recent years.

“This latest attack is a clear violation of the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Constitution of Benin, to which all individuals are entitled. They must be investigated without delay, and the alleged perpetrators must be brought to justice,” said Fabien Offner.

Background

LGBTI people are often victims of violence and threats in Benin. This is despite significant progressive developments in Benin in recent years, such as the decriminalization of same-sex relationships in the country’s penal code in 2018.

*Name changed to protect identity