Despite gains made in many parts of the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people are, in some regions, increasingly persecuted and denied basic human rights. Because bigotry thrives where we are silenced by fear, we've created this space for people to share stories of discrimination and survival. Read these stories, share them, and contribute your own. Let the world know that we will not be silent.

Tunisia, Tunis. 26 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 21 year old, gender queer person Rzouga (+216 24739501, rzougaselmi@gmail.com, IG: rzouga.selmi). Rzouga is an LGBTQI+ activist but is not publicly ÔoutÕ: ÒAs a non binary gender queer person IÕve never been able to express myself the way I want to because I may be called ÒfaggotÒ ÒsissyÒ ÒpervertÒ etcÉÓ He has come out to his family though. His mother, when he told her, asked him to go to a psychologist. He agreed. In his first consultation, he would not say he identifies as LGBTQI+ fearing the psychologistÕs reaction. The second time though, when he entered he said Ògood morning, IÕm a homosexual person. I was not raped, I was not forced to be. I was born and I choose to stay as a homosexual person. I am not having a problem with myself as a gay person.Ó To his surprise, his psychologist was supportive in particular in dealing with his mother. Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Rzouga/


“As a human being I’ve always failed in finding the ‘one person’ that I can call soul mates because of the cultural restriction and the backwards traditions that doesn’t tolerate love in a different way but it’s ok I feel the love among family friends and country love, but as a non binary gender queer person I’ve never been able to express my gender identity the way I want because I may be called ‘faggot’ ‘sissy’ ‘pervert’ and a lot of other terms.”

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eli

Eli/


“i use two names: eli and yana
to the internet and close friends i’m eli, the nonbinary who’s attracted to all genders and is proud of their identity
to some friends i’m yana the cisfemale pan who’s okay with their sexuality
and to my family i’m yana: cisfemale and straight
ever since i was little i didn’t liked being called a girl. or a boy.”

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Tunisia, Tunis. 25 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 22 year old, gay man Amine (+216 24323670). Amine is a survivor of regular homophobic violence at the hands of his own family. The impact was not only physical. The rejection from those closest to him drove him to attempt suicide several times. His desire to be with the man he loved saw him leave his home in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, to join him in Libya. But the persecution did not end. While walking with his boyfriend on a beach they were stopped by the police. ÒI was caught by the Libyan police,Ó he says, Òthey wanted to kill me. They beat me and detained me for seven days. I had to move back to Tunis, and stay away from my loveÉa piece of me.Ó His boyfriend stayed behind in Libya and married a woman to conceal his sexuality. He occasionally sends Amine money. Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Amine/


“My family beat me, so I tried to commit suicide several times. One day I fell in love with a boy who lived in Libya, so I joined him there.
I was caught by the libyen police, they wanted to kill me. They beat me and detained me for 7 days.
I had to move back to Tunis and stay away from my love…a piece of me.
He got married, even though he is gay, and it depressed me…”

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Polaroid 2

Amina/


“Growing up in Tunisia is not as bad as it is, but it’s tiring. We’re not like other Arabic countries, but we are also not like Europeans, so we grow up having an identity disorder. I discovered I was bi at the age of 15.”

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Polaroid 8

Salah/


“16 was the year of my coming out. I came out to my mother and my older brother. Poor him… he suffered from the pressure of the people of the neighborhood… My mother only worried about not having the cops home. Then, I understood that I will carry this responsibility throughout my entire life. Being responsible for being gay and different at 16 is worse than doing your military service.”

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Rachel/


“I’m a 15 year old girl in the usa. I’ve known i wasn’t like the other kids at my school every since i was 12. I Never knew about lgbt people until I Began to look on the internet. I had always assumed that i would Be like everyone Else when i was older.”

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joss

Joss/


i didn’t know how to start presenting myself as trans because i had always kept things buried inside of me.

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angela-1

Angela/


“When I was growing up my parents fought a lot so I spent a lot of time at my best friend’s house. Her family was very evangelical and I remember her dad coming into the room and telling us it was ‘not right and not normal’ for us to be sleeping so close together. When her mom told us we had to stop spending too much time together it broke my heart.”

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moussa

Moussa/


“In the end of 80s my father emigrated to Italy and we reached him in 1992. I felt very relieved because for sure my original country wasn’t the right place to stay. However growing up in Italy wasn’t that easy. Also here I was bullied and discriminated. First I thought that it was for my colour skin or because I was the nerd of the town. Later I will understand that there was something more.”

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chalese_2085

Chalese/


“I was ashamed and buried in self-judgment, afraid of what my friends and family would think. Having been raised in the LDS community, a part of the Mormon religion, I denied my feelings for a woman and considered never coming out. But after two years of being in the closet, and endless arguments with the woman whose companionship I treasured, I decided to choose what made me happiest: love.”

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24 year old transgender/heterosexual Noelle (last name withheld) moves with great caution around Jamaica. While there are parts of Kingston Jamaica where she feels safe, in others, she says, she must ‘navigate spaces’ carefully knowing that she can be attacked because she presents as a woman. To contact: +1(876)4018 656, noelle92@gmail.com, Social media handle: ms. Noellen. Jamaica is one of 76 countries where same-sex acts are illegal. The LGBTQI+ community in the country have regularly faced violent homophobic and trans-phobic attacks, and discrimination in almost every sector of society. However, in the last ten years, through the emergence of courageous grassroots LGBTQI+ grassroots non-governmental organizations and activists, the country has seen progressive gains for LGBTQI+ acceptance. Photo Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change. 29 September 2016

Noelle/


“she told me to be Be-You-Tiful- be you because the real you is beautiful and you’re not here for the approval for anyone so give yourself a break and Be-You-Tiful. These words stuck with me and formed part of me in a literal sense as I had it tattooed on my chest as a reminder to myself every day when I wake up and I am preparing myself for the day ahead. This is the first time I’m speaking so candidly to such a large audience about my gender identity but at this point I really don’t care. I am Jamaican and trans is beautiful and I am beautiful.”

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cameron

Cameron/


If you asked 2013 me where I saw myself in the future, I would have told you dead. today is a different story. today I’m living.

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Mo (left) is a 41 year old Jamaican transgender man. He is a police detective. He says “Jamaicans are very intolerant and homophobic, none the less, I live my life fearlessly” he goes on to say “you can never know when you can become a target… so I am always n defense mode.” Mo is in a long-term relationship with his partner Pinkie. To contact: monique391975@icoloud.com, phone: +1(876)5871997. Social Media: IG: spoiltchildmo FB: Mo Bibi Rowe. He sits with his partner 30 year old Jamiacan lesbian Pinkie says she does not face discrimination common to LGBTQI+ people in Jamaica. She attributes this to her feminine presentation. She says though that “In Jamaica most people don’t have a mind of their own, they just want to hear one person say ‘alright – you’re a lesbian you need for dead.’ It’s like the entire crowd come down on you, ‘you need for dead.’ There’s just not somebody to have a mindset to say ‘you know leave her alone or leave her alone.’” Pinkie is in a long-term relationship with her partner Mo. To contact: monique391975@icoloud.com, phone: +1(876)5910578. Social Media: FB: Exstasii whipped cream Codling. Jamaica is one of 76 countries where same-sex acts are illegal. The LGBTQI+ community in the country have regularly faced violent homophobic and trans-phobic attacks, and discrimination in almost every sector of society. However, in the last ten years, through the emergence of courageous grassroots LGBTQI+ grassroots non-governmental organizations and activists, the country has seen progressive gains for LGBTQI+ acceptance. Photo Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change. 29 September 2016

Mo/


“I am always on the alert and really on the defensive because when you have a predominantly male look, like I do, you can never tell when you may become a target so I am always cognisant of that and ready to go into defence mode. I really love Jamaican- it is my homeland. “

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F.J. Genus is a Jamaican queer man of transgender experience working as an IT consultant. In many public spaces he feels unsafe. He describes how every morning he must mentally prepare himself to face a world outside that often doesn’t accept him for the man he identifies as. To contact: +1(876)3135059, email: fjgenus@gmail.com. Social media handles: @to_gentleman (IG, Tw). Jamaica is one of 76 countries where same-sex acts are illegal. The LGBTQI+ community in the country have regularly faced violent homophobic and trans-phobic attacks, and discrimination in almost every sector of society. However, in the last ten years, through the emergence of courageous grassroots LGBTQI+ grassroots non-governmental organizations and activists, the country has seen progressive gains for LGBTQI+ acceptance. Photo Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change. 24 September 2016

F.J./


“Every time I introduce myself I am asked what I have come to refer to as the ‘Annoying Inevitable Question’: ‘What does FJ Stand for?’ the selection of a name is a critical part of the transition process of a transgender individual.”

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Asumi (left) and Oriana stand in the light of a police car during a nightly raid. "There's lots of physical and verbal abuse, and the police will break into the women's homes and arrest all of the women in the house,” says photographer Danielle Villasana. "There are some accounts of police arresting transwomen who aren't even working, they just arrest them for being transgender. A woman might be running to get food during a police raid, in her pajamas and not in her work clothes, but she will still get arrested.”

Takeover: Danielle Villasana/


Danielle Villasana shares stories from “A Light Inside”, documenting transgender women living in Peru.

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Emily/


“Growing up, my dad proudly told everyone he could, “If either of my sons comes home and tells me they’ve decided to be gay, I will laugh at them and kick them out of my house until they come home and tell me they’ve changed their minds and apologize.” He didn’t realize that he was actually talking about me, not my brothers. They had already disowned me for reporting my dad for molesting me as a child when I emailed them to come out, which I did to avoid having to hear their reactions, because I knew they would be vicious.”

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A posed posed portrait of Ibrahim (not his real name) who says he has been imprisoned and tortured because of his sexual orientation – he is Gay. He does his best to support other young gay men who have suffered persecution through his small group Hope Alive Intiative. Since Nigeria’s president signed a harsh law criminalizing homosexuality throughout the country last month, arrests of gay people have multiplied, advocates have been forced to go underground, some people fearful of the law have sought asylum overseas and news media demands for a crackdown have flourished. Three young men were recently flogged 20 times in a northern Nigerian court room for being gay. Some consider them lucky. The penalty for gay sex under local Islamic law is death by stoning. Nigeria, April 2014. Photo Robin Hammond  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Ibrahim/


“My experience of discrimination started since when I was 12 years old. In the school where I attend all my class mate hate me so much, they don’t play with me, each time I go to play with them, they reject me and say they will not play with a girl (referring to me).”

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devon

Devon/


“Ever since I was a young girl I knew I wasn’t like everyone else. I remember when my aunt would bring home her beautiful friends over and I couldn’t help but wish I was older so I could be with them. I never knew what bisexual meant until I was about 7 or 8.”

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brickwall-fuaad

Fu'aad/


“when we was in car i talked to him i have something to tell you but you must not be angry and i want you to be quiet when i ask he said “okay” , but in that moment i cant told him i want to see you all naked bcz of shy i tried but cant he told ” if you dont tell me you will not see me again ! ” he pressed to me to talk i said okay ” i want see you naked ” suddenly he got angry and got out of car i said him stop i want to explain it to you he left … “

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A posed portrait of the older sister of LGBT Activist and Journalist Eric Lembembe (in the picture she is holding), Ndongo Alice, 37, at home in Yaounde. Eric and Alice were very close when they were growing up. There was gossip in the family about his sexuality but Eric was never open about being gay. Eric was an outspoken campaigner for LGBT rights in Cameroon though and critical of state sponsored discrimination. Eric was murdered on the weekend of July 15/16, 2013. Eric had been brutally tortured. His legs, arms, and neck were broken. He had burns on his body from an iron.  The corners of his mouth were sliced, his eyes had been gouged out, as had his tongue. Before his death Eric had told his sister, Alice, that he had many problems but he refused to share them with her. After his death Alice found out he had been threatened many times. After his death she also received threats. One SMS said “You will die like your fag brother”.  Eric’s death has profoundly affected the family: “By loosing Eric we have also lost our mother. She has changed completely, her health, everything. And I feel really lonely without him. He was really helping me.” Eric’s killer/s have never been caught. Yaounde, Cameroon. December 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Alice & Eric/


“The death of Eric (little brother) is a death in our family, it also killed our mother because since the tragedy, the poor woman developed hypotension. We are left to ourselves (brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces). Imagine a pillar of the family goes without farewell or a trace, words cannot express the pain that I carry in my heart, how can we console our mother? What can we say to the children?”

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elle

Elle/


“I have been recently coming out for the past few years. i come from a very conservative family and upbringing but a liberal city. i am not out to my family but i have been coming out to friends and coworkers. i like to travel by myself a lot. on my most recent trip, there … READ THE STORY

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jenn

Jenn/


“My dad and i were truly best friends I felt like we were always laughing at our silly jokes…. these were the good old days until he began to get brain washed at his parish.”

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L

L/


“One day, I walked into algebra class with my girlfriend, and I saw that my seat was taken by one of the popular jock boys. I asked him to get up, but he refused, then began hollering offensive slurs at me. Several more boys joined in, and they started screaming names, like “carpet muncher” and “faggot” and “queer degenerate” at me and my girlfriend; one even violently yelled “people like you should be shot”. The whole time, I sat holding back tears as my girlfriend defended me. Everyone else in the classroom was either sitting idly at his or her desk, ignoring us completely, or laughing along with the boys.”

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garrett

Garrett/


“From being called ‘sister’ by my brother, ‘faggot’ by my uncle, being spit on, and being called ‘gay-rat’ by people in school, by the time I was in high school my self esteem was virtually non-existent. Flash forward to college and after the supreme court decision I came out to my friends and family.”

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stephanie

Stephanie/


“After beginning to visit a psychiatrist I came out stepwise. Some friends I lost but the majority supported me. During my leisure time I began to go out dressed like a women. Harassments started but I stood up for being me. Later, I was 27, I called my mom and told her. She was puzzled. Full of sorrows she asked me about dad. I insisted she should tell him.”

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dylan

Dylan/


“In my first year I was introduced to the world of social media and decided to sign up in the now popular site Facebook. There, I met countless of people who gave me hope, but I made the mistake of telling someone my sexuality. He would always blacked mailed me with it and I always felled to his wishes because I was afraid. Afraid of what the consequences would be because I lived in a very homophobic country and what would my mom would think of me.”

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parry

Parry/


“The promise that they would make me straight offered me a life that I could only imagine…Could I fall asleep with out anxiety attacks? Would the loud condemning voices in my head stop? Maybe suicide would seise to be the best available option.”

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Jordan copy

Nina/


“I had my first kiss when I was 17, I was not experimenting.. I was in love. We stayed together for 9 years and struggled by keeping our love and relation in the shadow”

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ben

Ben/


“i grew up in a masculine household, and have memories of being called ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ because i chose dance and music over sports, and my ultraconservative mom saying gay sex was disgusting. It was only natural that i thought i could suppress the smaller, gay in me, replace it with fear and hate”

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adam

Adam/


“It’s really hard to explaine what i’m going through, i’m gay i’m proud but my town hates me they bully me, hit me , harrasse me and throw rocks at me , i’ve tried to hide it , bUt my vOice , my talk , my walk and the way i am is telling !”

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brickwall-tina

Tina/


“I confided in one of my friends that im actually not straight. …in a space of 3hrs…the news was viral……I got hate texts,mockery videos,she got everyone to turn against me…my family found out……I got a breif weekend break from volunteering went home….they tried to an exorcism.”

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nicolas

Nick/


“about 6 or 7 years ago, a friend and I were walking along a street, laughing out loud and somehow, a guy started to shout ‘faggot !’ indefinetely on the other side of the street. Sheer provocation : I couldn’t stand here and smile stupidly because I thought at first that he wasn’t talking to me ; so I said the guy to shut up… He crossed the street, pacing in my direction, pushed me and swore my death the next time he’d see me. Sadly “classic”, this story wouldn’t get out of my mind, even though I had to do if everything was normal the rest of the day, not only to my friends, but also to my family.”

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wendy

Wendy/


“They used to throw paper balls at me, mess with my things, call me faggot. once they set fire under my chair during the class and the next day a guy put I nife on my neck make sure I would never tell anybody who did that to me.”

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A posed portrait of Funeka Soldaat, 53, who heads Free Gender, a black lesbian organisation working to end homophobia, based in the township of Khaylitsha, Cape Town. When talking about the formation of the group Funeka says “We had to fight or die, we didn’t have a choice”. Funeka is a survivor of sexual violence targeted because of her sexuality, or, as termed by the media a “Victim of corrective rape”.  Her attacker was never convicted. She also survived being stabbed in the back multiple times. The attack landed her in intensive care unit: “when I hear of someone being stabbed, I still feel the pain”. South Africa. November 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Funeka/


“I told the policeman what happened. He asked me: ‘Are you a woman?’ I told him: ‘Yes I am.’ He didn’t take my statement. Instead he went to other police and I heard him laughing. The other police also came to ask me what had happened. I later found out they were making fun of me. I went home, wearing one shoe, and feeling very devastated. I never believed that the institutions I trusted could do this to me. I arrived at home and went straight to bed without a statement being taken.”

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robin

TEDx/


Watch this TEDx talk in which Robin Hammond shares stories of discrimination and survival; stories that matter from where love is illegal. Stories that need to be heard.

“Maybe, just maybe, we can create a future world where no one needs to cover their face, change their name, hide who they are. A future world where everyone’s story matters. A future world in which love is never illegal.”

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vantull-wall

Vantull/


“I’m 15 and I’m gay , I’m from morocco , I still haven’t come out to my family yet , only to a couple of friends , being gay in here is a sin , a crime , and a shame bringer”

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tiara

Tiara/


“even if i wanted to be out and proud, who would listen? especially to someone who is a racial minority with mental health issues? I can’t wait to get out of here, to be free to be me again.”

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paul-dee

Paul Dee/


“When I witness the progress in places such as North America and Europe, I further realize how lonely and isolated I am at times to the point it becomes unbearable. I am at an age where I want to express my sexuality, find companionship, a lover, a partner. I don’t know what the future holds for me living here. Sometimes I wonder if this is just my burden to bare. Maybe one day in the afterlife if exists, I will finally be able live without fear.”

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kemal

Kemal/


“I’m a muslim guy born in a Turkish family. I came out for my homosexuality when I was 15. For my family this was not ok. So I moved by my own at my 17 without nothing. Now 12 years later I’m very strong and powerful.”

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john

John/


“Time came that I need to tell the truth to them, I was so scared of what might be the consequences of my confession. Before I went to college I confessed to them about who I really am but I was beaten by some of them, they were disgusted and even cursed me and since that day they started avoiding me.”

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mattie

Mattie/


“Last year, I tried to kill myself. I felt so trapped and stuck, like nothing would ever get better. I felt like there was something was wrong with me but realized it was something wrong with society. I was certain the society was never going to change. No one knew who I was. I was living a lie. My parents are still trying to figure out why I did it. If only, they knew.”

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A posed portrait of 26 year old Kamarah Apollo, a gay activist in Uganda. Apollo lists the discrimination he has faced: “In 2010 I was chased from school when they found out that I was in relationship with fellow male student. I was also disowned by my family because of my sex orientation. I left home with no option but to join sex work for survival and fight for our gay and sex workers’ rights because I was working on streets. I was also arrested several times because police officers thought I was promoting homosexual acts in Uganda. I have been tortured several times by homophobic people and police officers by tying me with ropes and being beaten, pierced by soft pins, nicknamed, a lot of psychological torture by local leaders and police. I can’t forget when I was raped in the police cell by prisoners, after all that I decided to start an organization with some campus students. An msm organization called kampuss liberty Uganda. During the petitioning of the anti-homosexuality act I appeared on local televisions so much and it became hard to me to a permanent place to stay because the majorities are homophobic. I also appeared in local newspapers as a promoter of homosexuals so right now it’s hard for me to get a safe place to rent yet I am not working. I was fired from work because I am gay.” Uganda, September 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Apollo/


“I have been tortured several times by homophobic people and police officers… I can’t forget when I was raped in the police cell by prisoners, after all that I decided to start an organization with some campus students. I also appeared in local newspapers as a promoter of homosexuals so right now it’s hard for me to get a safe place to rent yet I am not working. I was fired from work because I am gay.”

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omar_1024

R/


“Just want someone to come and take me out of this situation someday. I dont need all the luxury or money or the job that I have, I need love and freedom to be myself and want to surround myself with happy people.”

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daniel

Daniel/


“At that moment the sense of sin/guilt and social exclusion collaborated to go into depression. Every day, before bed, in my prayers asking for God to take away my own life if I were to continue living fighting myself because I had fought all the ways to not be so.”

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vincenzo

Vincenzo/


“I can’t describe the feelng of fear and violation when someone shows you torn pages of your most secret thoughts after you deny them.”

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alex-2

Alex/


“The thing that has always kept me strong in every decision I’ve made in my life is pursuing my own happiness, understanding that I don’t need to deny what I am or try to maintain an appearance of what I’m not before anyone and by no means in front of my parents.”

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michael

Michael/


“I dated women for 7 years, even to the point of having a fiancée, just to make him happy. It’s taken all my being to keep trying to salvage whatever love might be harvested deep down inside him. I still hope one day he comes around, but for now, I am stuck with some more bills and memories of the man who drove me home the last day he thought I was worth loving.”

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shion

Shion/


“When I was 15, I heard that I was ‘a shitty lesbo’ and was raped BY A CLASSMATE to ‘learn to be a proper girl.’ I didn’t go back to school after that day.”

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Eddie/


“love is all about chioices, not gender, and i really want international community can do something to let china openly and optimistically discuss gay rights issue with lgbt people instead of a bunch of government officials who didn’t even want to talk about it.”

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