Finding Solace in Ghana

This is a story about Sadat, a 23-year-old transwoman from Ghana who spoke about their experience being wrongly imprisoned and the process leading to their release from prison. Sadat explained how the process has influenced their life and how they were helped by Solace, one of our partner organizations in Ghana, which Sadat now dedicates their free time to. This is an edited story based on an interview given by Sadat in August.

When it comes to an issue about LGBT and you meet a policeman who is not well trained about LGBT, you are dead. You have no right to talk when they’ve just heard about your sexual orientation. That was what happened to me. I fell in love with a guy, and that is how it all started. He would spend the night with me sometimes and whenever we needed each other we were there. I had a friend with whom I had a disagreement once and he just went straight to my boyfriend’s family, and he threatened the boy’s family that he’d expose their son as a gay. They didn’t even know, and to make it go away they called the police on me.

I was there when the police came and arrested me. At the station, they started beating me, they handcuffed me, they took me to police station and they threatened my friend. The police threatened my friends that they shouldn’t come to the police station or they’d be arrested too. None of them showed up. The police just wrote my story and then wrote my statements for me. They didn’t ask me anything.

Hear Sadat speak about their experience

They told me, “When you go to court, say yes to anything the judge tells you. She will feel sympathy for you and then let you go.” We went to the court and I didn’t know what the prosecutor was saying. At the time, I didn’t even know that the person who speaks before the judge is a prosecutor. The prosecutor keeps talking and then asks “Are you guilty?”. So of course, I said yes because the police told me to.

I was sentenced to prison for one year, three months on one count of assault and one count of defilement. I didn’t know my rights. I didn’t know how to talk in court. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to even write my statement. The whole incident happened unexpectedly and I was jailed unexpectedly because I didn’t know what to say in the courts, what to write. While they were just discussing my life, I was just standing there.

The prison was not easy because there is this thought in the inmates that if the new inmate is in because of something LGBT, then that means that the next person that’ll come closer to them will not go home. I had to be locked in the toilets all the time and they would not let me come out even to find food. For four months I was sleeping in the toilet. A leader of the inmates came to me one day and told me he’d help me in return for some ‘personal favours.’ I spent six months with him then and then a friend visited me. That’s when I told him to inform Solace, because I had heard of them working for LGBTI about my situation. In one week, one of the members came to the prison and took my statements. Then, he came back with three lawyers. They came as my personal lawyers. It all happened so quick that in a few days, they came back and took my case into court again. Their English is different from mine and I was just in a hurry to get my freedom. That was how they got me out on bail and I’ve been out on bail for three years.

When I came out, I lost everything. I went back to the organization and I explained everything to them and they asked me about my plan and what I wanted to do with my life in the future. I was like, “I don’t have anything to do, I feel I just need a place to sleep and to wake.” They helped me with some money to rent a room and then to start all over with my small business again. I sell food to people, and I have even hired four LGBT people to work with me. I’ve also rented my own room now and I’ve given that room to those members who work for me and they are also sleeping there and they are working. As I’m talking to you now, we have a plan of building a foundation for transwomen where I’m their leader, and I build leadership in the trans-women to know their rights and defend themselves. I want to be the educator for people like me in the past so I can help them avoid what I went through. I have lost it all and got it all back and if I can I will not let anybody go through that.