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Trans women speak out after being forcibly stripped and pelted with bottles by crowd of 200 men

Maggie Baska May 6, 2021
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Three trans women attacked Benin

Three trans women were beaten and had bottles thrown at them at a bar in Cotonou, Benin on 1 May 2021. (Twitter/Hirondelle Club Benin)

Three trans women were subject to horrific abuse after being beaten and having bottles thrown at them at a bar in Benin – all of which was caught on video.

France 24’s The Observers reported the video was filmed on Saturday (1 May) at Sunset Bar in Cotonou, Benin. The video, which was shared by NGO and LGBT+ advocacy group Hirondelle Club Benin on Twitter, shows three trans women being confronted by a large crowd of men. The men force the trans women to take off their clothes while the women are being slapped and screamed at.

One of the victims told The Observers that she believed the attack had been planned. She said: “My man knew I was transgender and asked me to invite my transgender friends. When we arrived, he asked me to go outside.”

Another victim described how the group of men “blocked” two of them in the bar while “our friend was outside”. Before they knew it, she said “everyone started hitting” their friend who was outside, and the men “even threw a bottle on the back of her neck”.

“Once we managed to get outside to help our friend, they began attacking the three of us,” she said. “There were about 200 men there, and they forced us to strip naked while they laughed and filmed up. It was humiliating.”

The victims were able to find shelter with Hirondelle Club Benin. But they said the “whole nation” – including “our families and bosses” – had seen the video of the attack after it went viral on social media.

“We’ll never be able to find a job again,” one of the women said. “Everyone here is against us. Even young children in the street have been [pointing] fingers at us.”

Hirondelle Club Benin wrote on Twitter that the horrific attack represented “yet another assault on LGBTQI people in Benin a few days before the celebration of 17 May”. The group added: “We condemned these acts with the utmost rigour.”

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is celebrated on 17 May, and it is a day to draw attention to violence and discrimination experienced by LGBT+ people worldwide.

Luc Expedit, a founder of Hirondelle Club Benin, told The Observers that the group had referred this case to the prosecutor of the Cotonou court. He added: “We demand justice for these horrible and inhumane acts, and we will not give up until justice is served.”

Synergie Trans Benin, a human rights organisation for trans people in Benin, wrote on Facebook that trans people in the country are “suffering”. The organisation said “three of our members” were “physically assaulted after being undressed, filmed and videos shared on social media”.

The post continued: “For how long still have to go through such confrontations, such humiliations just for being us? How long are we going to have to fight for our rights to be respected?

“What can we face the clear will of politics to let us suffer all this violence? We must step out of our silence and act. This is everyone’s fight…”

LGBT+ people face widespread persecution in Benin. Homosexuality is not criminalised in Benin, but there are no legal protections for LGBT+ people against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But Benin is surrounded by other African nations which criminalise homosexuality. LGBT+ people are criminalised in Togo, Ghana and Cameroon, and the Human Dignity Trust states people in Nigeria even face death by stoning as a punishment for being part of the LGBT+ community.

Related topics: anti-trans violence

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