Two trans women will soon be freed from Port Harcourt Prison in Nigeria because of readers' generous donations to Project Not Alone. (See box f
Two trans women will soon be freed from Port Harcourt Prison in Nigeria because of readers’ generous donations to Project Not Alone.
(See box for an update on how much the project has achieved so far and which seven prisoners will remain behind bars unless additional donations arrive.)
In a recent ruling by the Port Harcourt High Court in Nigeria, two trans women identified here as Helen, age 22, and Uchechi, age 27, learned that they would be set free within a few weeks.
For their safety, they are identified here by pseudonyms.
In late April, Helen and Uchechi were arrested and injured by the Nigerian police, then charged with (consensual) same-sex activities between men, which is punishable by seven years in prison under Section 217 of the Nigerian Criminal Code.
Their troubles began when their hair salon was vandalized. They were attacked and seized by local youths, then were taken into custody by the police. At that point, the rural-based trans group Care & Dignity Foundation intervened, requesting assistance from Project Not Alone, which is run by the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the U.S.-based charity St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation.
Using readers’ donations, Project Not Alone provided $2,231 to pay their fines, cover legal expenses of an attorney working pro bono, and purchase a small amount of food for them. Helen fainted and needed hospitalization to treat severe typhoid, acute malaria and a lingering infection from the April assault. The cost of that was $300.
Considering the sluggish nature of the Nigerian judicial system and the circumstances of the case, including their compromised health and poor prison conditions, Helen and Uchechi accepted the recommendation of their lawyer to enter a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence. Their hope was to resume their lives more swiftly than if they fought the charges during a lengthy trial and risked spending seven years in Port Harcourt Prison.
Following two court adjournments, the judge finally delivered the ruling, sentencing each of them to a two-month and two-week prison term, which would be retroactively counted from the date of their arrest and detention. The women are now scheduled for release on July 12.
The story of Helen and Uchechi won’t end with their release from prison. Beyond that date, their future remains uncertain as they grapple with the challenges they will face when their sentence ends.
They have no home to go back to because their landlord sent them an eviction notice while they were incarcerated.
Their hair salon has been ruined, their belongings were removed, and they received an eviction notice from the landlord there too.
Currently, the women have nowhere to go upon their release. Helen, still recovering from her illnesses, lamented:
“I don’t deserve all this. What will become of me now? Even with the salon, life was already difficult, and now I have lost everything. How will I survive this? It’s all too much for me.”
Mariah Obinna, the executive director of the Care & Dignity Foundation, regrets the organization’s limited ability to offer further support.
“Frankly, I am devastated and heartbroken by the experiences these young women have endured. It is even more frustrating because our organization lacks the necessary resources to assist them as much as we would like. They are simply young women striving to build their lives, now burdened by this unfortunate situation stemming from unjust laws and policies in our country,” she said.
Project Not Alone will be able to help them further if donations allow.
Your donation is needed. Taken together with others’ gifts:
- $20 is enough to cut a prisoner’s sentence by one week.
- $100 is enough to cut that sentence by 5 weeks.
- $200 is enough to cut the sentence of two prisoners by 5 weeks.
- $333 will pay that fine in full for a prisoner, eliminating the entire extra 16 weeks of imprisonment. (To be clear: Paying the fine in full is needed to set a prisoner free early, which is why many donations are needed.)
- $8 will pay for a sack of onions for delivery to prisoners.
- $23 will pay for a large sack of peanuts to be shared by prisoners.
- $18 will pay prison admission fees for two LGBTI activists delivering food to LGBTI prisoners.
U.S. tax-deductible donations to Project Not Alone 2023 may be made via:
- The “Donate” button on the Facebook page of the St. Paul’s Foundation (Our favorite because Facebook charges us no transaction fees, but the button might not appear on mobile devices.)
- By sending a check to St. Paul’s Foundation, 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.) Please write “Project Not Alone” on the memo line.