Where being intersex means witchcraft

About a month ago, I was tagged into a story of a Ghanaian named Barbara Boakye-Yiadom who was at the mercy of the crowd around her. The victim was stripped naked, in no time mob gathered, snapping pictures – luckily the police got there in time to prevent jungle justice.

More worrying was the crowd mentality of blaming everything we have little knowledge of as being witchcraft. If it doesn’t fit into the standard definition, then it must be evil and evil were to be outcasts.

The photos taken of Barbara Boakye-Yiadom were graphic – it was a case of an intersex, with visible male genitalia and female physical attributes.

Looking through some of the pictures, I got a bit more curious because normally ‘our’ victims of witch hunt looked like anyone on the street so I thought there must be more to the story.

Lots of personal stories on the web of real people sharing their experiences as intersex. Stories that no one in Nigeria or in many African nations would share even if their lives depended on it – we are just not that open-minded.

This interview was an eye-opening, time spent watching was well worth it for me.

This incidence in Ghana was quickly reduced to mental health issue and nothing more was heard about it. We fear digging more about the story and educating others could mean spreading negative news about Africa.

Before this day, I didn’t know anything about intersex but I am aware that in most of African countries, anything out of ordinary is considered evil. Our world is black and white no room for any in-between.

I read Mrs Baokye-Yiadom story because of witch accusation, little did I know I’d learn new things about human biology and sex ambiguities.

Now that I am a bit wiser about intersex and their challenges. Knowing my Africa, I could not imagine how life must have been for many people living in the dark especially with folks whose gender ambiguity is more pronounced – bless them is all I can say.

I am grateful that the world is a lot open now, at least families and communities who wanted to seek knowledge can reach out to the wider world and hopefully draw strength knowing they are not so strange after all.

Categories: Africa, Nigeria

Tags: , ,

18 replies

  1. You guys don’t know what your talking about. Barbara is my mother. She suffers from mental illness and is not a man. Due to poor health care an internal organ was dislocated. I guess this looks like a male organ. It is sad that Ghana’s environment does not condone people with mental health issues but instead be littles them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Stacey, I am sorry to hear Barbara is your mother, I hope she is getting much-needed help. It must have been such an ordeal reading about her all over the web.

      As you are aware from the pictures posted online, it does look like an intersex case, even if it is I do not believe anyone should ever be exposed to such public humiliation, it says more about us as a society than the victim.

      Please read through my post on this issue and comments from people, the feeling was mutual – we all feel sad that one of us can be humiliated in such an inhumane manner.

      I am Nigerian and we are no better with the way mental health patients are treated, our road sides speak volume, the hope is that we find a better way of treating one another by shedding lights on things that we can improve on.

      Again, I am sorry about your mother I do hope she is getting better now.

      Much love, Xo


  2. I read this story, and felt pretty sad , but was not shocked, I’ve been in circles where such an attitude is widespread. This is appears to be the feeling of much of urban Africa, where people behave like feral animals. The same people that attacked the inter-sex person would be saying in the same breath that they consider themselves to be good ‘Christians’ or ‘Muslims’, hmm – makes me wonder as to what type of followers they are.
    There can be no excuse, because the crowd is curious or disgusted. The overriding maxim is ‘to treat others like you’d want to be treated’.
    Were the offenders arrested and prosecuted? Probably not, at least the police put a stop to it, rather than just standing by or turning a blind eye, or exploiting the situation to make money.
    To attack someone you don’t understand is like behaving like a savage, period.
    Whether the person is inter-sex and has beautiful genitalia, ugly genitalia , desirable genitalia, unusual genitalia – it doesn’t matter. They have put their clothes on and are entitled to privacy and basic human rights as much as the next person, anything else is simply unacceptable. You don’t need to understand the range of issues that go along with inter-sex in today’s world, just respect the difference and afford the person a basic level of dignity and mind your own business, that is not so hard to do…
    Instead of society condemning this, it is the usual stony silence. Things like this really ‘piss me off’ about contemporary Africa.
    Thanks FK

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree, very sad. Unfortunately, basic human rights isn’t universal in either Ghana or Nigeria, if it did we would not have our mental health patients naked by the road sides.

      Seriously doubt anyone was prosecuted, just happy enough that the lady was saved from untimely death.
      As much as there is no scientific prove Africans are less intelligent, our attitude to push aside discussing important issues is always there to proof something is terribly wrong somewhere.


  3. That’s my President always advocating for something better. How are you today?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re not so far behind, Fola. We are just beginning to touch the surface on this subject. It is good to discuss it because we are all part of the human condition, only there are a lot of variations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, that’s what I just learnt as I dig out stories of intersex.

      Interesting how quickly I got ‘sucked’ into learning more about the condition that I forgot about African peculiar problem of witch hunt – maybe Africans will eventually leapfrog on many social issues after all.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s a sad fact that throughout Human civilisation, regardless of location, those who are different are persecuted. It isn’t that long ago that ‘Queer Bashing’ in the uk was seen as ok and a blind eye was turned by the police (if they weren’t the perpertrators themselves!). Now times are moving on. Abusing people because of their sexuality is no longer acceptable in the UK – although you still meet the occasional idiot at football matches and the same goes for racism. Some of this is a generational thing in the UK… Someone who I would normally view as a friend occasionally drifts back to ‘Black this.. Black that’ – but he’s in his 70’s and a quiet reminder that my wife is ‘black’ results in a swift apology. He doesn’t hate – he just drifts back to the normality of his childhood 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha, I love what you did with your friend ‘…quiet reminder…’ I think we all need to share our positive experience to save humanity from its ignorance.

      Thankfully, the world is a lot more tolerant today. In the case of intersex, it is biological – this woman did not chose to be that way so one would think she should not be a subject of humiliation.

      How I wish African continent would not have to take another 400 years to catch up with tolerance of one another.


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