Eddy Love (not real name) is a 35 year old bisexual man. He explains that living in a country where the LGBT community are so stigmatized means one finds it difficult to report sex crimes to the police or even talk about same sex rape. “It pains me a lot about what they have done,” says Eddy when talking about the gang rape by five men that he survived as a young man. Ghana. 13 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Eddy Love/


“The way that I’m doing with my boyfriend, I can’t be walking and holding each other, kissing outside because it’s not allowed here. Unless I’m in the room with my partner that we know what we are doing”

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25 year old transgender man Akosua (front) with his girlfriend Cilla (back) (not real names), a 22 year old bisexual woman. Cilla was blackmailed by a former boyfriend after discovering pictures of her with women. Cilla sunk into a deep depression and tried to kill herself. Her father prevented her. Akosua was raised in a traditional Muslim family, his father is an Imam. After attending a lesbian wedding in another city, he returned home to find out pictures from the event had been sent to his family: “One of my brothers slapped me first, and I was like, "Why? Why did you slap me for? What?" And he's like, "What is this? What disgrace have you bring to our family? Why would you go to a girls' with all the lesbians and stuff? Why would you do that?" My two brothers started beating me up.” After this he fled his hometown. Ghana. 08 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Akosua & Cilla/


“Growing up as a lesbian has always been difficult for me because I have been having a life of struggle and hiding from the society view to violent attacks and discrimination.”

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35 year old gay man Nana (last name withheld). 10 years ago he tested HIV positive. He has been on ARVs (Anti retroviral medication) for seven years. For the first three years he did not address his illness until his health took a negative turn. Speaking about the positive test result he says: “In the beginning it wasn't easy because that's what I say, blame games. I also started looking around. So, where did I got it? Where did I got it, where did I got it? But after taking the medication, thinking positively, I'm okay.” Explaining why he didn’t want to show his face when being photographed he says: “If you are even diagnosed HIV, you can even lose your job without them not telling you that because of this that your job is being taken away from you. They find a way, and then you are off. So that is why my face need not to be shown.” 07 March, 2018. Ghana. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Nana/


“Living as an MSM is difficult in Ghana. I’m a 35 year old MSM guy here. It all started ten years ago when I met a man in a Abaasa, and we exchanged numbers. I visited him later and it all started, but before then I was feeling sexual urges for the same sex. Since … READ THE STORY

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Zaind (not his real name) is a 30 year old HIV positive gay man. Like many from Ghana’s LGBT community, he has faced discrimination from health workers: “The first time I went to the hospital, I met one nurse, and told that nurse the reason why I fell sick, but I was not pleased with how the nurse welcome me and chastised me with the bible preaching.” Zaind also faced bigotry from those he thought closest to him. He told his mother he was HIV positive: “My mother told me am not part of her children. She has said that this am doing is a curse.” Ghana, Accra. 15 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Zaind/


“In Ghana, if you are a homosexual you won’t get things easy. Especially in the community you live or anywhere you are, you won’t get things easy.”

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30 year old Delicious (not his real name) is a gay man from Ghana. He says he doesn’t feel safe in his own country. When walking with friends one night, they were attacked by a gang in the street. They were able to escape, however when they reported the assault to the police they were ignored: “I reported to the police and the police was like, ‘Wow. So you're gay?’ You know, instead of them listening to what happened to me, they didn't. But was their head, ‘Okay. It's a gay issue.’ They were like, ‘Alright. So if you are gay, so be it. Then fine.’ My issue was brushed off. They didn't even do any follow ups. They didn't even arrest those who attacked me. So I don't feel safe. I don't feel safe, more times. You need to be doing your things indoors, always” Ghana. 12 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Delicious/


“My family and friends do not understand why I behave that way. Sometimes they call me names. And my mom used to punish me a lot for that.”

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44 year old John (not real name) has always known he is gay. He grew up in Ghana, but then moved to the UK for 12 years. In the UK he was able to be more free and open about his sexuality, but when he returned to Ghana he had to hide his identity again: “Coming back home has its own challenges, as my sexuality of being gay is not accepted.” He has to be especially on guard with his own family: “Due to illness of my mom, I had to return back. We have been a close family and have to be very careful with everything that I do around them.” Ghana. 13 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

John/


“Right through high school I have always admired and loved being with men. My family did not accept my sexuality because of my mixed culture and religion. I was told if I choose to be who I am, I will be disowned and in order not to disgrace them.”

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35 year old Baobab (not his real name) is a gay man and LGBT activist in Ghana. When visiting his boyfriend, a group of men confronted him threatening to out him if he didn’t give them money. He was forced to take them to an ATM where he gave them what he could. He promised to give them more the next day. Instead though, he went to the police. Initially the police would do nothing to help him, but Baobab insisted until the police agreed to accompany him back to where his blackmailers were waiting for him, and arrested them. Speaking of the interaction he says: “You know it takes a lot of courage to handle these people. I mean the police and all that, they don't know the law.” Baobab knows that he is an exception among LGBT Ghanaians, most of whom would not turn to the police fearing stigmatization or being treated as criminals themselves. “They fear to report such cases,” he says. Stigma destroys lives according to Baobab: “Stigma kills. The virus doesn't kill. The virus can be suppressed. Inasmuch as stigma also can be unraveled and stigma can be addressed. But, a virus... never kills, but stigma does.” Ghana, Accra. 14 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Baobab/


“I was gay from day one. I discovered my sexuality and sexual preference very early in life.”

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38 year old Angel (not real name) is a transgender woman and a performer. Because of her gender identity and sexuality, she says she has been kicked out of home, lost jobs, been the target of hate. “I was naturally born feminine and my parents and family loved me so much. But, when they realized my sexuality, everyone started to see me as evil. I was taken to churches, special places, because they felt I was possessed.” “People judge us a lot cause when you pass, there's this kind of eye, someone might look at you in a certain way, that you might even want to dive under the ground. People judge us so much that you really sit down and think, do these people see us as humans? Do they see us as humans or do they see us as animals?” Ghana. 09 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Angel/


“I was taken to churches, special places, because they felt I was possessed. As I became more feminine, society started frowning at me. I was called all sorts of names, lynched, hooted at, and that made me felt really uncomfortable. At a point, I wanted to commit suicide.“

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Several years ago, after a HIV positive friend died, Anthony (not real name), a 28 year old bisexual man, decided to get tested for the virus. Despite understanding he is part of a high risk population he doesn’t want to risk the stigma associated with a HIV positive diagnosis: “if it happens to be that I'm positive then it's gonna be a double blow on me so I just decided I don't wanna take it.” The double blow he refers to is being gay and HIV positive. Talking about why he took the test in the first place he says: “I was young, wild, and free. I was just having fun. To me, it was fun. But when I realized things were going wrong and people were dying here and there, I lost a friend, then I decided, no, I needed to go take the test. So after that, I've been very careful when it comes to HIV and sex... if I was, if I got tested and was HIV positive, I know to think that I'm gonna lose a few friends because most gay people have this perception that if your friend is positive then the chances of you being positive is high and everybody points hands at you just because you're friends with him. So, definitely I'm gonna lose a few friends if I was positive.” Ghana. 09 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Anthony/


“People called me names ’cause I had little female tendencies and that mostly discouraged me and made me feel I was less of a human.”

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AJ (left), a lesbian woman, and AD (right), (names withheld) a transgender man, have been in a relationship since 2012. In 2014, they decided to have a child. AD says: “he's our everything, our life and our future. Sometimes when we are settling our differences and he walks in on us, in the heat of everything, he smiles and then takes all the tension away. I could say he's the pillar of this relationship.” In Ghana, their partnership is not legally recognized, if something happens to AJ, AD would have no rights to their child. AD said “It gets tiring having to pretend that we are not a couple, cause I mean, we cannot go, we cannot be seen in town like, holding hands or act like a couple with our baby. It doesn't work that way so yes we do hope that we do get there someday where we can get to be married and then live like normal heterosexual couples, like the way heterosexual couples live.” Ghana. 09 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

AD & AJ/


“Nine months down the lane we had a baby, our heaven on earth. He’s our everything, our life and our future. Sometimes when we are settling our differences and he walks in on us, in the heat of everything, he smiles and then takes all the tension away. I could say he’s the pillar of this relationship.”

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In 2009, Pearl (not real name) a transgender man, was nearly burned alive. The town where he worked believed he was a lesbian and when he would not confess to the police he was released to the community to face ‘mob justice’. He had gasoline poured on him and he was being taken to a bonfire when his father intervened. In an attempt to “cure” him he sent him to a prayer camp in Benin. At the camp he was physically abused and raped. He escaped the camp and returned to Ghana. Now Pearl is an activist for transgender rights and health. “I always hate to share my story because it brings back sad memories and makes me feel very down. I have faced a lot of violence, mob attacks, police cases because of my sexuality, rejection from landlords, family rejecting me as a terror. But at the end of the day, it's never changed who I really identify as, but rather, made me stronger and served as a mentor to a lot of LGBT's.“ Explaining why people from the LGBTQI+ community in Ghana cannot be open he says: “Coming out in Ghana can be very dangerous. It can even cost your life. It can even make you flee from where you stay because I remember when my pictures went viral. I had to leave from where I was staying to a different community because the people in mine wouldn't sell to me. They wouldn't respond my greetings. My landlord was giving me hell of a time and all that, so I had to move to a different community that people do not know my issue or my situation.” Ghana, Accra. 08 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Pearl/


“I always hate to share my story because it brings back sad memories and makes me feel very down. I have faced a lot of violence, mob attacks, police cases because of my sexuality, rejection from landlords, family rejecting me as a terror.”

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30 year old gay man Alex (not his real name) was raped by a friend and another man on his birthday. After going out for drinks, his friend took him home where another man was waiting. The following day he was physically and mentally hurt. “After I was abused by my guy and his friend, even though I had pains down there seriously, but I didn't think of going to the hospital or the clinic to check for HIV test or something because at that time I was naïve I didn't know much about it. And I trusted him that he wouldn't contract such sickness.” Ghana. 07 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Alex/


“He brought me to his house. I did not realize I was brought to his house because I was boozed off. I realized myself with two guys in the bed. Him and I, and the other one. And I was very much ashamed and so sad because someone I trust and I wanted to be with could do this thing to me.”

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Prince (not real name) is a 32 year old HIV positive bisexual man. Prince got tested for HIV after he learned that his friend, who had AIDS, died. Prince has been on ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) for the last four years. “My gay friends doesn't know I'm HIV because of here in Ghana here, we like talking. That's why I didn't share to anyone.” Ghana. 10 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Prince/


“It’s not easy in Ghana here. You say you are a gay. It’s not easy at all.”

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23 year old Biggy (not his real name) is a gay man and a student studying political science. One night, when leaving a party he and some friends were confronted by a group of men and Biggy was questioned about the way he presented himself: “They say that ‘why are you behaving as if you are the others, opposite, female.’ And then, ‘You are guys, why are you doing that? Why don't you go and play football and all that things.’” When they didn’t respond the men attacked them. “They starting using weapons to hit us, some of the guys were having wood, and all that weapons, which can cause harm to us. But, as we were shouting, because they were beating us, a woman came to our aid. And then the woman rescued us.” Talking about why he can’t be open about his sexuality he says: “So, coming out boldly would be a problem and, even if you do, you must have the courage and do that. You either lose some of your friends, you work and people pointing hands at you and call you a sort of name. And you can even lose your job in Ghana.” Ghana, Accra. 08 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Biggy/


“Here your life in Ghana isn’t something easy, one can’t boldly come out, and say that he’s one, simply because it is not legalized in Ghana, and for that matter society frown on it in Ghana.”

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32 year old Ben (top) and 22 year old John (bottom) (not real names) have been in a relationship for three years. Both men feel rejected by their communities because they are gay. They have also been the victims of homophobic violence. Ben said, “I was attacked by gang guys twice. The first I was beaten, second, my partner and I was attacked by a gun. His hand was shot and had to go under a surgery, all in the name of stigma and discrimination in Ghana.” Ghana. 12 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Ben & John/


” I was attacked by gang guys twice. The first I was beaten, second, my partner and I was attacked by a gun. His hand was shot and had to go under a surgery, all in the name of stigma and discrimination in Ghana.”

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Seth (right) and Andrews (left) are a gay couple (not real names). They must keep their relationship hidden from their communities and families or risk, they say, being ostracized or  even killed. Seth said “If people know we are into gay thing, they'll just tease us or maybe we may be banned from this community. That's how this country does.” Andrews still attends school and lives with his family. If they found out he was gay he would lose their support he says: “If my family finds out, they won't give me money for school, you no feed me too, and I have brothers and sisters big one, big one, if they saw me, I'm dead.” Ghana. 10 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Seth & Andrews/


“We just want to be understood and free express our love publicly.”

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Effery (not her real name), a transgender woman, grew up in a religiously strict household. Her family was suspicious of her sexuality and gender identity so she learned to act differently in pubic and in private: “When I'm outside the house I have to pretend I'm the boss. I need to walk more masculine, not very feminine, like the way I feel when I'm in the house. And the way I talk too sometimes when I'm out, I have to be very careful because when you start talking and you start being all fabulous and all gay, they'll raise eyebrows. So when I'm out there and I'm talking I need to talk straight. I need to act straight.” Ghana, Accra. 12 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Effery/


“There was a time in my life that I thought I was the only person of my kind on Earth, was very lonely, emotionally traumatized and looking for people I can relate to”

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24 year old gay man Emmanuel isolated himself as a young man fearing the homophobic abuse and violence: “I felt like an alien. I felt like I didn't need to go out because people weren't comfortable with seeing me, so I was indoors, and I would say it was traumatizing because things that I need to go out and do, I cannot go out and do it because of how people will look at me. So, that in term kept me in the room most of times.” He remembers being attacked when he was a teenager by four men after he left a neighborhood pub. He says he was targeted because of his “effeminate” gestures: “The one in front of me punched my stomach, and before I bent down to endure the pain, the rest of the three came along with the one, making the four, surrounded me, and starting attacking me physically. I don't know, I didn't know how it worked, but I got to escape. I think I wasn't hurt but bruised. So, I'm very fortunate. That's my first incident.” Ghana, Accra. 06 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Emmanuel/


“I knew I was gay from when I started experiencing adolescence. I love men, and I won’t change that for anything in the world. Besides, love is love.”

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Marcel (not his real name), a 35 year old gay man and healthcare worker, has not come out to his family. He tested positive for HIV in 2007. He says he contracted the virus because he didn’t understand how to protect himself. “The solution is more of education” he says. In a society that highly values family, Marcel’s mother urged him to find a wife. She also saw it as a way to hide his sexuality: “She was really warning me with getting my wedding and getting a child and also to cover up who I am. To cover up what would think or people suspect me to be, within the family or outside the family.” Marcel says this is not unusual:“There are a lot more LGBT people within the community who are forced themselves to get married and to have kids. Just to cover up, just to change the perception or the misconceptions about their families and the people they live with.” Ghana. 15 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Marcel/


“My junior brothers and my parents do suspect me, but I always find a way to educate them on my sexual life. They don’t really feel comfortable, but my Dad and Mum said they love me who I am and accept me the way I am.”

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33 year old A.K. (name withheld) has been attracted to women since she was young. When she was in junior high she had sex with a female domestic worker employed by her family. The woman blackmailed A.K. Eventually her parents found out they’d been intimate. Since then she’s hidden her sexuality and taken steps to make sure her family does not suspect she’s attracted to women. She is now in a heterosexual marriage. Neither her family nor her husband know about her sexuality. “…before I got married, I stayed out, I stayed back from having sexual intercourse with my fellow woman, and I thought that was me. When only I was deceiving myself. Then after a year I met someone, and I was like, that is when I discovered who I am. So for like three years now, that is when I discover, I discovered the real me, yes. But I won't deny that I love my husband that I'm staying with. And the woman that I also have sexual intercourse with, I also love her. I don't know, I just love them both. So I know I am, I won't say it's a mistake”.” Ghana. 07 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

A.K./


“When I was growing up, I knew I had feelings for my fellow women, but I thought I was the only one in the world who had such feelings.”

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41 year old Annobil (not real name) is a gay man and an LGBT healthcare advocate. Multiple times he has been attacked and forced to relocate because his community suspected him of being gay. Annobil is HIV positive. He recounts when he first was tested: “I didn't know anything before I get a test… The first day I went to do that test was not easy because it was really, really, really, hell. But after they done the test, it said I'm positive, I said it's okay.” Despite the difficult experience, Annobil says he has hope of living a full life. He says that it isn’t HIV that is the real threat, but the stigma of being LGBT and the stigma of being HIV positive. He says that health providers need to provide care and not stigmatize HIV positive men who have sex with men. The stigma from them leads to people staying away from the health centers, which leads to people becoming sicker: “Stigma is killing people in our community because… people point fingers at him that this is who you are. So the stigma alone are killin' us. And we decided that we need to change our attitudes toward the MSM people or the positive ones. Because we all human being. If we are positive, that doesn't mean you word is at end. You have life. So the nurses should rather help us so that we can get care from them. 'cause when I go there you don't give me care, then better I stay home and die 'cause I don't want anybody to know. So if I stay home and die, I'm gone.” Ghana, Accra. 13 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Annobil/


“When I was 8 years of age I used to play with the girls a lot, so due to that people started call me names like kojo besia (Man-Woman) then from there I decided to play with the boys at the age of 10 years because of stigma attached to me playing a lot with the girls.”

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kofiAA

Kofi/


“In Ghana if you’re gay then you’re deemed an abomination, sick and preverited and most of the time I’m church when the preacher speaks on the subject it’s always the same THING ‘if you are gay then you’re going to hell’ because of this I can’t even go to church cause EVERYTIME I enter the house god I feel ashamed but I still pray cause in my heart I know that god still loves me no matter what.”

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