‘Erasing 76 Crimes’ project helps LGBTQ+ people imprisoned for their sexuality

Image of a padlock with a heart on it locking a prison cell
The Earsing 76 Crimes project directly helps LGBTQ+ people who have been imprisoned for their sexuality (Image: Vecteezy)

Many of us who are fortunate to live in countries where being LGBTQ+ isn’t a crime may take this liberty for granted, where we’re free to live as our true selves without fear of being arrested – or worse. However, this is a luxury that countless people across the world aren’t afforded, as highlighted by the work of the Erasing 76 Crimes project.

Since its inception in 2018, the initiative has been instrumental in liberating 36 LGBTQ+ individuals from the clutches of unjust imprisonment in various countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The Attitude Magazine Foundation‘s (AMF) recent donation to support this noble cause has not only highlighted the organisation’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, but has also underscored the importance of collective efforts in battling systemic discrimination, whether it’s on our own doorstep or halfway across the world.

A case in which the AMF’s donation assisted was that of Katie and Mimi, a lesbian couple who spent almost a year behind bars in Mfou, Cameroon after being reported to police by neighbours, who had discovered the pair’s relationship. The couple were charged with “homosexuality” and “outrage of modesty” and endured threats of rape while imprisoned in dire conditions, being fed only one meal a day.

Despite having no trial for months as they were unable to afford a lawyer, they kept hoping for news until the Erasing 76 Crimes project stepped in, covering their legal fees and paying their fines when they were tried and found guilty. The pair were granted early release in December, 2023, after having already been held for 11 months.

“The whole town brands us lesbians. It’s unbearable” – imprisoned woman Katie

Speaking upon their release, Katie said the couple planned to leave Mfou and settle elsewhere, as “The whole town brands us lesbians. It’s unbearable,” underscoring the persistent challenges individuals face in nations where their sexuality is outlawed.

Tragically, Katie and Mimi’s story echoes many across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean persecuted under colonial-era laws for consensual same-sex relations. However, the Erasing 76 Crimes project, supported by the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, has provided a lifeline to many.

The organisation also runs “Project Not Alone” fundraisers to help pay legal fees and fines for innocent jailed LGBTQ+ victims, with the aim of securing their release. Its funding also provides a team of 20 counsellors to offer advice to LGBTQ+ people in Nigeria through the Qtalk app, giving a vital support network for those who otherwise might have nowhere to turn.

“[The AMF’s donation] came at a time when funding had stalled,” Colin Stewart, president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, told Attitude. “[It also went towards] the release of four gay men … from Bafoussam Prison in Cameroon, and the repair of trans couple Uchechi and Helen’s hair salon in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, that transphobic vandals wrecked last April, leading to the couple’s arrest and imprisonment.]

Through the efforts of Erasing 76 Crimes, we’re reminded of the ongoing struggle for equality and the importance of standing in solidarity with members of our community who continue to fight for their basic human rights – no matter where they are in the world.

You can find out more about and donate to the Attitude Magazine Foundation by clicking here.

This feature appears in issue 357 of Attitude magazine, available to order online here, and alongside 15 years of back issues on the free Attitude app.

Andrew Scott on the cover of Attitude issue 357
Andrew Scott on the cover of Attitude issue 357 (Image: Ramon Christian/Attitude)

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