A lawyer recounts the story of a youth he assisted.
LGBTQI+ individuals are sometimes arrested and detained in police stations or correctional facilities where they are frequently blackmailed and humiliated. How do we put a stop to such acts? Bob1 is a lawyer who provides legal aid to LGBTQI+ people. Since 2014, he has helped arrested members of the community. Prison Insider collected his testimony.
LGBTQI+ individuals endure stigmatisation and discrimination, including at the hands of police. Members of the community are extorted and blackmailed.
Detention centres are unclean, unhygienic, unhealthy and overpopulated. Tiny cells hold 10 to 15 people. Even minors suspected of being gay are imprisoned under the logic that it will “teach them a lesson”. Many LGBTQI+ people see their human rights violated.
Members of the community are incarcerated in bleak conditions. Their rights to privacy and intimacy are disrespected. They are most often kept naked or in undergarments, exposing them to sexual violence. They suffer humiliation and blows to their dignity: some are stripped and exposed in the presence of others, or turned into a spectacle.
LGBTQI+ prisoners’ loved ones are not easily granted visiting rights because the authorities believe that visits amount to an acceptance of homosexuality.
LGBTQI+ prisoners are sometimes deprived of food and water while incarcerated, forcing them to put up with violence in order to survive. Said violence can be inflicted by fellow prisoners, and also by prison officers, some of whom pose as prisoners themselves .
The guards were all outside the cell, waiting to see him, to behold his state, to mock and humiliate him.
Recently, I assisted a boy of 17 who was arrested for identity theft. (Cross-dressing is considered a form of identity theft and is punishable by law.) This boy was locked up with adults despite the prison having a section for minors. We met while he was incarcerated. He recalled how a guard had informed his fellow prisoners that they could “help themselves to the young girl who’d just arrived”, the young girl being him. The boy did not understand what he meant. The oldest cellmate approached him and offered protection in exchange for a sum of money. Sensing danger, he accepted. The next day, the same guard returned to ensure that the boy had experienced the cruelty of his fellow prisoners. The “protector” assured the guard that he had “served himself all night”, to which the guard applauded and exclaimed, “Bravo! You deserve a beer.”
Protection was priced at 25,000 CFA francs, a sum the boy could not pay in good time. He couldn’t ask his parents because they were clueless about his sexual orientation. I was able to step onto the scene to help him and work on his release.
On the last night of his imprisonment, the man who promised to “protect” him reckoned his fee wasn’t coming. The oldest cellmates proceeded to rape the boy.
After receiving legal aid, the boy was released. The guards were all outside the cell, waiting to see how he’d held up, to mock and humiliate him. Personally, I was alarmed and horrified at the boy’s condition.
Lodging complaints for such cases is impossible. The victim’s parents are not always aware of their child’s sexual orientation and end up rejecting them when it comes to light. The boy’s stigma could worsen because the hearing is public. There is no way out.
Translated by Susanna Correya and proofread by Mollly Rapaport.