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Here’s how we’ll help 2 trans Nigerians imprisoned after being attacked

Project Not Alone is seeking donations to feed and free them.

Port Harcourt prison (Photo courtesy of TopNaija.ng)

Visiting men prepare to enter Port Harcourt Prison (Photo courtesy of TopNaija.ng)

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria – Two transgender women find themselves injured and behind bars at Port Harcourt Prison after a group of local youths targeted and raided their hair salon, leading to the women’s subsequent arrest by Nigerian police.

Identified here with pseudonyms for their protection, Helen (22) and Uchechi (27) were charged in court with violating Section 217 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, which provides for a seven-year prison sentence for consensual sexual activities between men.

Helen and Uchechi are two of 13 imprisoned LGBTI victims of homophobia in Cameroon and Nigeria who will be helped by Project Not Alone, which is seeking donations to free all 13 of  them and, until they are released, to provide them with supplementary food they need.

So far $4,363 out of the needed $11,891 has been raised. Currently, donations are being matched 1-to-1, doubling the impact of each gift.

Helen and Uchechi are still suffering from wounds they received during the attack — a broken hand, an arm with limited mobility, bruises and puncture from being hit on the head with a board covered with nails.

Logo of Project Not Alone (Otavio Zuni illustration courtesy of the artist)

None of the youths were arrested for their role in the attack or the damage they did to the hair salon and injuring Helen and Uchechi, who don’t know how the police became involved or who reported them.

Helen and Uchechi, who had been living openly as women, remain uncertain about how their transgender identity became known.

The women opened their hair salon in 2019 after putting in hard work to earn an official certificate and seed money from a government skills-training program.

The attack on the trans women and their hair salon, reportedly in April, has sparked concerns about the safety and rights of transgender individuals in the country.

Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt (Photo by Mike Daemon)

Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt (Photo by Mike Daemon)

Expressing dismay, Helen said, “Everything I worked so hard for just disappeared like that. I don’t even know how they found out. But I suspect someone close to us might have said something. We’re fortunate to have survived the ordeal. This has been a dreadful experience.”

Following their arrest, the police obtained warrants to access their mobile phones, seeking information that could help build a case against them.

After three days in a holding cell at the police station, Helen and Uchechi were arraigned at the Port Harcourt Federal High Court.

Currently, the two women are being held at Port Harcourt Prison, awaiting court action. They are both suffering from the injuries received during the attack as well as malnutrition, malaria and pneumonia. The women’s health continues to deteriorate while in prison. There is growing concern about their well-being if they remain detained under unsafe conditions.

In the prison, they are forced to lie on unsanitary floors and are continually at risk from transphobic and homophobic inmates. Moreover, they lack access to clean drinking water and proper nourishment, surviving on inadequately prepared meals served only once a day. They are still suffering from injuries inflicted by the youths who raided their salon, with substandard medical care provided within the prison facility.

Despite the challenging circumstances, Helen and Uchechi may have a glimmer of hope. The Care & Dignity Foundation, a transgender organization based in Port Harcourt, has been advocating for their release.

In addition, through a partnership with NoStrings Development Initiatives, a member of the African Human Rights Media Network (AHRMN), the women have been included in Project Not Alone, which aims to secure their release. Additionally, a human rights legal group has agreed to provide them with pro bono legal representation.

Helen and Uchechi are two of 13 imprisoned LGBTI victims of homophobia in Cameroon and Nigeria who will be helped by Project Not Alone, which is raising money to feed and free them.

The financial sponsor of Project Not Alone is the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which also supports RightsAfrica.com.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the fate of Helen and Uchechi hangs in the balance, highlighting the urgent need for greater protection and recognition of the rights of transgender individuals in Nigeria.

The women have been advised to plead for a reduced sentence, potentially resulting in only a few months’ imprisonment, a fine, and then their release.

Project Not Alone has won early release for 24 gay, lesbian and trans prisoners in Cameroon during the years 2019 through 2022.

This year’s financial goal is $11,891, which will pay the prisoners’ fines and provide lawyers (working pro-bono) for detainees who are being held pending a trial. It will also pay for hygiene supplies and supplementary food for prisoners during the months while they await release

For more information about the project, click HERE.

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How to donate

U.S. tax-deductible donations to Project Not Alone 2023 may be made via: