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.

Pepetsa is a 23 year old transgender woman and a sex worker. She came out as gay while in school and as a result faced discrimination from her community. Now as a trans woman, it is difficult for her to find work and she, like many transgender women, does sex work to survive placing her at a greater risk of contracting HIV: “I'm really, really afraid of HIV, but because of the money I get and the difficult access to jobs… to the work and employment, right? I have to expose myself and run risks. I have to fight this fear.” Maputo, Mozambique. 19 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Pepetsa/


“I suffered a lot of bias at work because of my sexual orientation I have faced many challenges, and one of the worst challenges is access to health care services for being a trans woman.”

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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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Lidia/


“we aren’t afraid to show the world our love, but sometimes it’s not that easy. we receive bad words or comments from people for no reason”

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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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A posed portrait of Nakitende Aisha in Nairobi. Aisha knew she was lesbian when she was 13 years old. She describes her family’s reaction: “My family members want to kill me after they found out that I am a lesbian. Even villagers wanted to kill me. My family told the villagers that in case they saw me, they should kill me. That my family would pay them.” Her village was not safe, but neither were the streets of Kampala, Uganda’s capital. In 2000 walking back from the country’s only LGBT bar (since closed by the President) she was beaten with a metal pole and gang raped. “I get to realise I was sick in 2014. That is after I started to fall sick frequently which was never the case for me.” Aisha tested positive for HIV. Given that she did not have sex with men, she presumes she contracted the disease when she was raped. Fearing for her life she fled her native Uganda for Kenya. She describes how life is here in the country where she seeks sanctuary: “Even in Kenya, the neighbours don’t like me. They abuse me saying I am a disgusting lesbian… we are not at peace even here in Kenya.” She has continued to face attacks here in Kenya and after one particularly violent one, lives in fear: “I am always scared, worried that they could come back and kill me because they had machetes and they were 15 in number. So I worry that they could come back and behead me… my heart has never been at peace since then. It is always pumping hard. I am always worried that those men could come back and kill me here in Kenya.” Aisha, like all LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya hopes to be resettled to a country that will accept her for who she is. The emotional turmoil of her circumstances, and lack of any hope weighs heavily on her: “For the future, I feel like committing suicide because I am not happy at all here in Kenya… Only God knows. We are just strong hearted but people hate us.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan.
While in many places, there has been great progress in recent years in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTQI+) rights, including an increasing recognition of same-sex marriage, nearly 2.8 billion people live in countries where identifying as LGBTI is subject to rampant discrimination, criminalization, and even death. Same-sex acts are illegal in 76 countries; in some countries, this can result in being sentenced to death. Behind these statistics, there individuals with unique, often harrowing stories. Where Love Is Illegal was created to tell those stories. 
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change.

Aisha/


“My family even promised to kill me. They can’t even look at me after knowing that I am a lesbian. Even the villagers were told to just kill me in case they saw me anywhere. That is why I decided to run away.”

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He/


“2017 my family know about my IDENTIty, you know my parents react of course, raised by Moslem family MAKES my family disagree about Me being GAY. My mom tell me to get GIRLFRIEND for hide my IDENTITY. “

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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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Sebastian/


“She made things softer for me by asking me and my answer was: yes, I’m having a relation of love with someone with my same gender. It is hard for me to explain how her face changed with my answer, then she hugged me”

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When 20 year old Gilberto was asked by members of his church if he was gay, he said yes. “They told me to stop singing because God is against it. And if God is against it, they are against too. It was very sad.” A week later he returned to church, but the pastor called him: “He told me that I had the evil spirit of homosexuality. They tried to shape my mind. They said I had to go there every Monday at 10 o'clock for advice, so that it would leave me, because that was an evil spirit.” As well as removing the ‘evil spirit’ the church tried to isolate him form the LGBT community by destroying his SIM card. As much as he loved the church, in the end he left realizing they would never accept his sexuality. Maputo, Mozambique. 15 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Gilberto/


“And another episode was when in my church found out that I’m gay. They told me to stop singing because God is against it. And if God is against it, they are against too. It was very sad.”

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40 year old Daniel was afraid to come out to his family, fearing he would be ostracized, however when he did he learned he was one of the lucky ones, his mother accepted him. “Thanks to my mother, I live freely without bias to my orientation. Today I can say, I'm happy.” Maputo, Mozambique. 14 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Daniel/


“It took me a long time to admit to it to the family because of my fear to their reaction. I went through various psychological therapies, one of which was remarkable.”

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Hazard/


“grow up in rejection of myself and more over tendered to hate gay people too. I too was thought to hate and I really became good at it, internally I called it my guard.”

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A posed portrait of Beyonce, a Ugandan refugee living in Nairobi, supported by Nature Network. Beyonce left Uganda after her family discovered that she is transgender. “I’m from Uganda. I’m a proud transgender, but I’m in Nairobi as a refugee. I ran away from Uganda because my family and the community found out that I’m gay. I was beaten to death, but I survived. But my family continued to look for me. They also went to the radio station. They say that whoever sees me they should contact them or to kill me. That’s when I ran to Nairobi in 2015.” Beyonce came to Nairobi hoping to find a safer life than in Uganda, however she often still finds intense discrimination towards LGBTQI+ people. “In Nairobi it’s very difficult as transgender women or transgender. We found life very difficult. Also in Nairobi people are homophobic. People try to threaten you. People try to attack you, because they can’t allow gay people in their country. It’s very difficult and I myself I can’t move around, because a lot of community and people are homophobic, so it’s very difficult here. There’s a high risk  for LGBT to get HIV, because their clients may say that, “I’m paying you $20, but I don’t want us to use condom. This person, the LGBT refugee he may, because he needs the money, so he will risk his life then he sleep with the guy. There is a high risk for that. I hope my future it will be like … to have a freedom, to be who I am and to do something that I can do when someone can’t stop me. When someone also can love me, where I can be loved.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
Stigma, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation means that access to HIV services is yet another challenge for this community. As a result, LGBTQI+ people in Africa are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV, with prevalence rates in many countries exceeding 10-20%. To respond to this, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) built a quick, nimble, and easily accessible $10m fund which can get money to the most effective grassroots organisations doing some of the most important work among the most-at-risk LGBT groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.  A Rapid Response mechanism administered by the International HIV / AIDS Alliance quickly disburses smaller sums to respond to emergencies where LGBT people are in jeopardy. The fund is active in 30 countries and Nature Network in Kenya is one project that has received the fund.  
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Beyonce/


“My family continued to look for me. They also went to the radio station. They say that whoever sees me they should contact them or to kill me. That’s when I ran to Nairobi in 2015.”

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Dr Anindya/


“I told him [my professor] that Section 377 [India’s anti-LGBT law] is unconstituional in today’s world. He was so disgusted that he made me fail for which I had to appear on that exam later. I didn’t ask for any probe, but I realised that the problem lies somewhere else. I contacted the president of World Psychiatric Association and told him the situation.”

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A posed portrait of Cindy a gay Ugandan refugee living in Nairobi who is supported by Nature Network. Cindy was arrested while trying to register at the UNHCR and was then sent to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya. “I had the night there in a disgusting cold cell and in the morning a bus came for us. The first thing that got into my mind was death for I thought it had been brought to take us back to Uganda. To my surprise, it was a bus for the Kakuma camp in Turkana county, a land of misery, a land of thirst, a land of no hope.” Cindy was again arrested in Kakuma where he was sent to Lodwar central prison for 30 days. “The prison was hell, they made us walk totally naked from the prison entrance to the prison wards. Everyone knew we were homosexuals. They bullied us, gave us hard tasks and with hardly no food. After serving, we were taken back to the UNHCR camp with no counseling, no immediate medication, and almost all of us were sick. We were on our own with no mercy or sympathy from what we went through in the prison until one merciful brother, an advocate and former Ugandan LGBT community leader from USA West Virginia advocated and helped us with transport to leave the camp for Nairobi where we had left our belongings, documentations, and daily medicines.” Cindy returned to Nairobi and lives stays at the house run by Nature Network. He does not have HIV, however he understands that he and other refugees are at high risk. “My HIV status is negative but sometimes I feel like I'm at a high risk of getting HIV/AIDS because there are times when I need something and I need to find ways of getting it. Looking at my friends living in a good life they got whatever they have and these people are doing sex work, which I wouldn't like to do.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
While in many places, there has been great progress in recent years in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTQI+) rights, including an increasing recognition of same-sex marriage, nearly 2.8 billion people live in countries where identifying as LGBTI is subject to rampant discrimination, criminalization, and even death. Same-sex acts are illegal in 76 countries; in some countries, this can result in being sentenced to death. Behind these statistics, there individuals with unique, often harrowing stories. Where Love Is Illegal was created to tell those stories. 
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Cindy/


“it was a bus for the Kakuma camp in Turkana county, a land of misery, a land of thirst, a land of no hope. I suffered from worry, stress, and trauma. I thought I would die, my health was bad, I had no right of speech.”

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Harmik/


“When I was 14, I shared with my female classmate that I was gay, then she exposed me to the whole class. I got sexually abused as a result, was tied up by a group of guys, and even one of the guys was showing his penis over my face infront of everyone.”

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Claudia (left), a 24 year old lesbian woman, and Jo (right), a 31 year old transgender man, have been in a relationship for over five years. Jo explains what happened when Claudia’s mother discovered their relationship: “she was expelled from the house and I had to take responsibility and take Claudia to live with me at my parents' house.” Jo’s family took in Claudia, two weeks later her family began to soften. Jo says: “Claudia's mother asked her to come back home and expressed an interest in getting to know my family, this is what happened in the same year. From that period until here, both her family and my family, our relationship is being respected by all of them.” Mozambique, Maputo. 22 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Jo & Claudia/


“Our relationship, likes several others consisted of ups and downs. But in our case it was because we were a lesbian couple. A negative episode that remarked us and determined the history of our relationship all began when Claudia’s mother discovered that her daughter was dating a person of the same sex.”

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Eduard/


“I grew up feeling different in my family, not only sexually, but in the way of thinking in general. My family is not necessarily accepting of who I am though I never told them that I am gay, but I told my brother and he is okay with it but not supportive. My mother is not necessarily accepting of the idea, I have not shared with her, but she tries to ask me personal questions to discover stuff out.”

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Diana/


“I had feelings for boys before the age of 15, and I had boyfriends. However, when I had a girlfriend, then things started shifting fully, because I did not realize that I can be at peace with my feelings.”

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Mamikon Hovsepyan/


“It is hard for me to start a relationship because people know about me since I came out almost publicly due my activism work for LGBT, and thus those who want to start a relationship with me, feel very hesitant because they do not want to be exposed, and their parents may already have knowledge about me.”

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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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Arash/


“Hi My nickname is Arash Randy. I was born in Iran and lived in Iran for 24 years. im now 29. After I was 24 years old, I escaped from Iran to Turkey and I applied for asylum. After spending 14 months in Turkey, I decided to move to Germany alone. Homosexuality is illegal in … READ THE STORY

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A posed portrait of Jonah, an LGBTI Ugandan refugee, who lives in Nairobi and is supported by Nature Network. After Jonah’s uncle, who he lived with, discovered Jonah is gay, he attacked him. “My uncle came to our room, dragged me from the bed. On top of his voice, saying I'm a disgrace, I'm a curse, I'm a criminal that needed to be killed. He went to the kitchen, and got a big wood, and started beating me with it. I bled. He campaigned other people to beat me up, and here, some neighbors came to rescue me, 'cause they wouldn't let me be killed in the neighborhood.” Like many refugees in Nairobi, Jonah relies on financial and medical support to survive, however he cannot survive on the amount given by the UNHCR. “The challenges I face here in Kenya , we happen to be given the 4500KSH [about 45USD] every month which happen to be not enough, 'cause the life of living in Kenya is a bit expensive, so people tend to engage in sex work as a way of generating income to supplement on the money being given. We have a problem of health. When someone falls sick, and the way the UN guys respond to it, it's on a slow pace, 'cause you have to email to them, go to the UN offices a couple of times, and you know all during that time, you're in pain, and they keep on giving the appointments, so if it's not amongst your friends to mobilize and get you money, and you be treated, some of our friends have died. I have a couple of friends who are passed on, and then, my other problems are, since so many people have been engaging in sex work, so many of them have been infected, and a number of them have died of AIDS.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
Stigma, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation means that access to HIV services is yet another challenge for this community. As a result, LGBTQI+ people in Africa are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV, with prevalence rates in many countries exceeding 10-20%. To respond to this, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) built a quick, nimble, and easily accessible $10m fund which can get money to the most effective grassroots organisations doing some of the most important work among the most-at-risk LGBT groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.  A Rapid Response mechanism administered by the International HIV / AIDS Alliance quickly disburses smaller sums to respond to emergencies where LGBT people are in jeopardy. The fund is active in 30 countries and Nature Network in Kenya is one project that has received the fund.  
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

James/


“I prefer not to use real name, because people who are trying to kill me are still looking for me. I’m an LGBTI Ugandan refugee living in Nairobi.”

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Pulkit/


“I have always been brazen online, sharing photos I take of Indian male sexuality across social media. But I never took the hate that came with it seriously till this one time I was physically assaulted by two men outside a very crowded subway and a mob gathered to watch while they threw homophobic slurs at me.”

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When Jennifer, a 26 year old transgender woman, returned to her mother’s home after living on the streets, her mother told her to get tested for HIV. “My mother told me that I had to take a test at the time. I did not take it very seriously, but I knew that I got involved with people infected, who I had sex with ...those people using no protection.” Jennifer tested positive for HIV, but she could not tell her mother: “I was ashamed of it all at that time I was going to get more medication then I gave up on medication. I stayed like that some more time. It was always that thing into me I always had a doubt, as if I was not well.” She explained why she stopped: “I was afraid and ashamed that one day somebody would discover that I was HIV-positive.” Off her medication, Jennifer became very ill and had to be hospitalized: “During the two months I was ill, I was hospitalized, I lost my life expectancy. I thought I was really going to die. I did not even have some hope.” From near death, she made a remarkable recovery. She now takes her medication regularly. Maputo, Mozambique. 23 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Jennifer/


“After taking the test, the test was positive. And when it was positive, I came back home and I did not tell anybody about it. My mother asked, and I always said ‘ahh I have not done it yet’ but I was already taking medication. So I was ashamed of it all at that time I was going to get more medication then I gave up on medication.”

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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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26 year old Frank Lileza came out to his grandmother when he was eight years old. He recognizes how fortunate he has been to have a family that accepts his sexuality. Many from the Mozambican LGBTQI+ community are ostracized by their families. Wider society has not been as accepting: “I am a homosexual man, but all the time I was kind of having some girls' style, like the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I express myself. And people would notice that. People were actually saying some very ugly names because the way I was expressing myself, the way I was standing myself in being in this environment.” Maputo, Mozambique. 15 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Frank/


“I have a very supportive family in terms of accepting the way I was different by them. That was the very beginning because my family and friends, they wanted to know who I am”

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Sandipta/


“in my school days when i wished to perform as a female dancer in annual programme they laughed at me and informed my family. my parents beat me.”

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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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A posed portrait of 26 year old Aaron, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo living in Kakuma Refugee Camp in north western Kenya. When his community learned that he was LGBTQI+  they targeted his family. “At one time, my family could be attacked by police and they could be imprisoned. I could be tortured, I could be beaten sometimes. And then, one time, my family was attacked in the middle of the night. They came at my home. They kicked the front door of our house. They entered, searching for me. I sensed there was danger and I had to slip through the door of the back house of our house, and I ran away to the bush. I don't know what happened to my family. And I ran into Uganda. I ran from Uganda to Kenya. Right now I'm here as a refugee, and I'm living in Kakuma Refugee Camp. That's the end of my story.” Kenya, October 2017. 
The Kakuma Refugee Camp is located in north western Kenya and houses more than 180,000 refugees. The camp is located in a semi-arid desert with temperatures over 30C. LGBTQI+ refugees are a minority; approximately 190 total with 120 Ugandans, and are often targeted by the wider refugee community. The camp, run by the UNHCR, provides food and medical support, however rations meant for a month typically last just two weeks. Treatment facilities are located miles away, and transport is not provided, posing a challenge for those with HIV / AIDS requiring life-saving medication.
While in many places, there has been great progress in recent years in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTQI+) rights, including an increasing recognition of same-sex marriage, nearly 2.8 billion people live in countries where identifying as LGBTI is subject to rampant discrimination, criminalization, and even death. Same-sex acts are illegal in 76 countries; in some countries, this can result in being sentenced to death. Behind these statistics, there individuals with unique, often harrowing stories. Where Love Is Illegal was created to tell those stories. 
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Aaron/


“One time, my family was attacked in the middle of the night. They came at my home. They kicked the front door of our house. They entered, searching for me. I sensed there was danger and I had to slip through the door of the back house of our house, and I ran away to the bush.”

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Avelino is a 24 year old bisexual and a traditional healer. When he was 22 years old he discovered he is HIV positive: “I caught HIV because I had several multiple relationships without prevention. They were in the amusements, in the night outs, in the nightclubs. Once in a while I had sex with people I did not even know. I caught HIV, I did not know what was that of having prevention.” Mozambique. 23 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Avelino/


When I was 22 years old I found out that I am seropositive, I have HIV. It was a scare, I did not expect it.

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Bruno Ferreira

Bruno/


“Talking about my homosexuality, for me, is talking about love. That’s because it was through love that I started to recognize my differences from other people around me. I was fourteen when I met him, sixteen when I fell in love and twenty-one when I left him. It was through this cycle that I saw … READ THE STORY

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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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A posed portrait of Lucky (right) and John (left), Ugandan refugees living in Nairobi. Lucky and John lived together in Uganda - until John’s parents found out they were in a relationship and attacked Lucky.They hid with a friend and saved enough money to flee to Kenya. They were registered separately as refugees and they were able to find some sanctuary in Nature Network. “The life now in Nairobi, because of the Nature Network we have, the little money we are getting, it help me someway, somehow, and the Nature Network come in, they do pay us rent here, they buy us food.” Faith has been an important part of keeping them strong through their trials.
“If it wasn't God's help, we would have already died, because I remember the time when the parents came to attack him [Lucky], and then, they wanted to kill him, if it was not God, he would have already died, but God knows us, God loves us, so he managed to protect us all the way from Uganda up to here, we are together.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
Stigma, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation means that access to HIV services is yet another challenge for this community. As a result, LGBTQI+ people in Africa are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV, with prevalence rates in many countries exceeding 10-20%. To respond to this, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) built a quick, nimble, and easily accessible $10m fund which can get money to the most effective grassroots organisations doing some of the most important work among the most-at-risk LGBT groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.  A Rapid Response mechanism administered by the International HIV / AIDS Alliance quickly disburses smaller sums to respond to emergencies where LGBT people are in jeopardy. The fund is active in 30 countries and Nature Network in Kenya is one project that has received the fund.  
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Lucky & John/


When they attacked him, he managed to escape. He ran away, and then, he told me, ‘Don’t come back home, because even me have left home, cause your parents went there to kill me. They realized that we are gays.’

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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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A posed portrait of Tasha, 21, a Ugandan refugee living in Nairobi, and supported by Nature Network. Tasha is a transgender woman who presents as female, because of this she is often targeted and she does not often leave the apartment where she lives. “As a transgender, I’m always indoors. Me, I never move out. I’ve never enjoyed my life here in Nairobi, that is what I have to tell you. Because from Monday to Monday, from January to January I’m always indoors. I only move out if it’s really important, very-very important, because I’m scared for my life. Being in the same place, same house, same room from today, tomorrow, the other day, the other day, daily. It really bothers our mind and then you are all there. You feel like you’re being tortured in a way, so you’re not free to do what you want. At times you feel like you wanna take poison.” Tasha explains how many Ugandan refugees end up in sex work to be able to afford food and shelter. “I personally, I’m not doing sex work, but most of the people, most of my refugee friends are engaging into sex work. Because they want to earn a living. And most of the people that are engaging into sex work are getting different diseases like HIV/AIDS.” “We’ve had people, refugees, in fact here, Ugandan refugees dying of AIDS because they have gotten it here in Nairobi. And most of the time when they get these diseases because as for refugees we cannot afford the hospitals and stuff. They end up getting so sick, very ill and we cannot treat them. At the end of the day they end up losing their life because of practicing sex work. They never want to disclose it to anyone, because they are scared of discrimination.” “I don’t wanna lose my life. I’m still young. I still have a future out there. I wanna do something for myself. I wanna stand out for other LGBTI people.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
Stigma, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation means that access to HIV services is yet another challenge for this community. As a result, LGBTQI+ people in Africa are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV, with prevalence rates in many countries exceeding 10-20%. To respond to this, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) built a quick, nimble, and easily accessible $10m fund which can get money to the most effective grassroots organisations doing some of the most important work among the most-at-risk LGBT groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.  A Rapid Response mechanism administered by the International HIV / AIDS Alliance quickly disburses smaller sums to respond to emergencies where LGBT people are in jeopardy. The fund is active in 30 countries and Nature Network in Kenya is one project that has received the fund.  
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Tasha/


“During my teenage I was expelled from school, because I was gotten exchanging letters with my boyfriend. That’s when my parents disowned me and put police to hunt me down. When I got to know about it I had to flee Uganda, because my life was in danger.”

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23 year old Avelino (sitting) & 25 year old Neston (lying) are a gay couple. Neston’s family did not approve of his homosexuality. Avelino, byt contrast, when he cam out to his mother, she accepted him. Avelino recalls when Neston had a fight with his family, “‘Why don't you come and live with me,” Avelino said, “let's live together in my house’ and he asked ‘Are you serious?’ and, because of what my mother had told me before, I said ‘Yes’.” Avelino’s mother welcomed Neston, but his father did not know about his son’s sexuality at the time: “It was a huge shock when he found out, we had already been going out for about 6 months when he (his father) found out exactly what we meant to each other. It was such a big shock that we spent about 2 days out in the street… The whole family here had a meeting, in a weird way, a big confusion and everyone, brothers, nephews, everyone revolted against my father ‘He is everything, he works hard in school, he works hard in athletics... What difference does it make?’ I still get emotional when I remember that my father sat with us, apologized and asked him [Neston] to live with us.” But not everyone has been so accepting. When a photo of Avelino and Neston kissing was posted on facebook, Avelino, an international track athlete, lost his spot on the team: “They were made aware of my sexual orientation, they stopped summoning me for international competitions… To let go of the Mozambican Athletics Federation in order to live what I am, who we are... I do not regret anything, if I had to go back in time and do something different, I would not do anything different, I would do everything the same.” Maputo, Mozambique. 22 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Avelino & Neston/


We are a gay couple, we are a couple together for almost 4 years, like a common couple we have gone through many problems, but love has always spoken louder.

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thales

Thales Amaral/


“It is not a crime to be a homosexual in Brasil. Unfortunately, we cannot ensure our rights only by the laws: the guidelines of our lives are not only dictated by our governments and I would say that this is good. To my family, being gay is a crime. To some friends – who actually … READ THE STORY

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Dylan-Brazil-1

Dylan/


“At adolescence things got worse, because at the moment that everyone were discovering themselves, I discovered that I was a freak: how would I explain to everyone that I was a man? So I hid that from everyone, even from me.”

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anônimo

João Guilherm/


“I could see his hate increasing and dominating that street. He started to touch me in a different way, although still aggressively. He raped me. He run away. He run away, crying. “

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João Delduque

João/


“Being LGBTI+ in Brazil is a challenge, it seems that we always have something to prove to people.”

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eduardo

Eduardo/


“I am bissexual and schizophrenic, but different from what many people around me think, my sexuality is not related at all with mental disorder, although I have become ill because of prejudice. For lack of acceptance.”

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Shermin_iran

Shermin/


“There wasn’t any safe place for me to live,rules were against my dignity,I didn’t want to do compulsory sex reassignment surgery,the thing that Islamic republic of iran is doing now.”

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Andre (last name withheld) was bullied severely at school. At one point a large mob of students  gathered outside a school building he was in, threatening him with violence. Eventually the police had to be called to escort him out safely. His mother’s waiting car was stoned. This is how he came out to his family. Instead of rejecting him, as is sadly the fate of so many LGBTQI+ Jamaicans, his family embraced him and accepted his identity and sexuality. To contact: andre_c-bar@hotmail.com, 18768595236, Social Media: (IG,FB,T) drepheonix. 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. 26 September 2016

Andre/


“he told everyone in the school that I was gay. In doing this, it caused uproar in the school. I was quickly taken off the scene and I was pushed in a building for my safety. The mob of student grew and you have the entire student body and mob in the building chanting to let me out so they can have their way with me. School officials and security could not squash the mob nor could they disperse.”

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wlii-c-180316-iran-farid

Farid/


“the first time i tried to come out was very unsuccessful, I was at the 11th grade I conffessed my love to a classmate, got turned down and he told everyone.”

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Christina Clarke is a 24 year old bi-sexual Jamaican and Administration Officer for a LGBT organization in the capital city Kingston. She says it is not easy being LGBT in Jamaica, but if you are a bi-sexual female and present as a woman, then nobody will know or give you problems. She says though that Jamaicans make everyone’s business their own, and love to “dig up dirt” on other people exposing and “shaming” them on Facebook. To contact: Phone +1 (876)2933814, email: christina.clarke00@gmail.com, IG: _realitychick, TW: realityxoxo, FB: christinaclarke. 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. 23 September 2016

Christina/


“I am labelled as confused and is sometimes asked the question in being bi-sexual, am I truly attracted to two sexes or simply confused and need to experiment until my “TRUE” sexuality is found. I am also labelled as promiscuous or even being told I am “just looking to be noticed”.”

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sagar_carrot

Sagar/


“Living in India, where same sex marriage is considered to be filthy I had a really tough time growing up. Confused as I was, I dint know with whom to share this fact of mine. I was scared, but even though I was closeted people had to find out who truly I was.”

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bradley-02

Bradley/


“One day someone passed comment and I snapped. Years of abuse and shame came flooding out. I can not begin to describe the relief and elation to be free. Reality then hit my like a ton of bricks and I realised that the hard work was not over. How does one tell a spouse they are leaving? How does one tell an overbearing father he is gay?”

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Samarpan_07

Samarpan Maiti/


“I come from a rural economically marginalized background which itself gave me a set of struggles to fight since childhood. Since my adolescent days I was trying to understand myself and was a confused soul.”

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Zulfikar

Zulfikar/


“‘I’m claiming an asylum,’ my voice cracked.
He looked deeply into my eyes. ‘Against what country?’
‘The Republic of Indonesia.’
‘On what basis?’
‘Sexual orientation.’
‘Welcome to Canada, Mr. Fahd,'”

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