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.

A posed portrait of Gregory (not his real name), a Ugandan refugee living in the Kakuma refugee camp in north western Kenya. Gregory was forced to leave his community after he and his partner were witnessed having sex. “My uncle was angry about it. He decided to abduct me, with the help of some of my family members. They took me to a mud house in the village for two days. I was screaming for help, mercy. Cattle keeper heard me, broke in to rescue me. I ran away the same evening. I had no other option, but to cross into Kenya. Gregory was tested HIV positive in Kenya and has found that accessing medication and adequate diet is a challenge as a refugee unable to work and obtain funds to maintain his health. “Due to poor feeding, the medication makes you dizzy. You wake up weak, feeling dizzy. You feel your head is spinning around, because last night, you didn't eat, because the doctors tell you should swallow the ARVs when you're going to sleep. Then, in the morning, you take suppository, so you wake up with the dizziness of the ARVs.  And you take that when you don't even know what you're going to eat. You have to stay in the house. The house is hot. You're dehydrating. So, makes you weak in that way. “If you go to the clinic to pick up some medication, you walk in the scorching sun, because this is a semi desert. The degrees are very high. 40+. You walk an hour. You dehydrate. Then, an hour back to where you live. So, it's kind of frustrating. Transportation, poor feeding, the environment. Everything is challenging. He says the conditions are made even more challenging because of the stigma of being HIV positive. “People discriminate people who are HIV positive, and mostly, in Africa, they see that as a curse. They even call it bad luck.” 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.

Gregory/


“They took me to the village, in a mud house, they locked me up, and called me a devil. That a devil’s supposed to be locked up. They left me there.”

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Shei/


“After cOming out, my mom Dissed me. My sister threatened my life. My friends walked away. Was that not enough? Unfortunatelly no”

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Marilia/


“I came out when I was 25, in a country where I felt safe and to A family that might not understand, but supported me. I thought discrimination was far from me, but I was wrong.”

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

Alex/


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

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Andy/


“I was trying hard ‘to pray the gay away,’ spending all my energies and resources for the religion, going on missionary work in other countries, but a storm was brewing within me”

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Sydney/


“Growing up in a country where being gay is sin and abnormal was hard and sad I learn early in my life to be strong standing for my own right”

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A posed portrait of Milli, 35. In April 2010 Milli went to stay with a friend. While waiting for her friend to return home, she went to the landlord and asked for a light for her cigarette. He dragged her into his shack and said: “You think you are man! I’m going to make you pregnant and I’m going to kill you”. He strangled Lilli with a piece of wire until she lost consciousness “and then he did what he was doing, for hours!”, “I tried screaming”. Neighbours eventually kicked in the window and held the man until the police arrived. The police arrested him but he was released on ZAR 400 bail (around US$40). He didn’t appear in court for his hearing. He was on the run. Free Gender, a black lesbian organisation working to end homophobia, based in the township of Khaylitsha, Cape Town searched for the rapist posting pamphlets. It took a year to find him. When asked why the police didn’t search for him, Milli says: “they don’t have time to listen to you when you go to them, when it comes to homosexuals, they take their time”. “I just thank God that I am alive. I thought I was going to die.” 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 ille

Milli/


“I don’t want to write because I dont want to Remember, it makes me very angry. But most Importantly, I want to move forward”

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Sheila (not her real name), a 35 year old transgender woman, left Mozambique to find work in South Africa after being told working conditions were better. In South Africa, because of her gender identity she could not find work and turned to sex work to survive: “What was most difficult for me about this work was that sometimes I had to subject myself to having sex without wearing a condom because the clients said they would pay more if I didn’t wear a condom and at that time I had no information on what not wearing a condom was, all I was thinking about was money, I wanted money, I didn’t know the risks I would be running.” One of her clients offered her a place to stay to stop doing sex work, however she found herself trapped in a physically abusive relationship: “I suffered a lot of violence, physical, verbal and psychological because if I said anything he would say ‘don’t forget what I took you away from, don’t forget where you came from you must always remember what I took you away from.’” After one year she returned to Mozambique where she learned she was HIV positive. Now Sheila is a activist educating other transgender women about how to be safe and how to live with HIV. Mozambique. 21 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Shiela/


“I stayed there with this man not being able to leave the house, not even to visit friends because he said I would go back to prostituting myself. I suffered physical violence, verbal and psychological abuse for one year.”

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Anuraag/


“For the longest time, I didn’t know what it meant to be not be afraid. I grew up afraid of my father, who smelled it in me, who called me a sissy, and told me I should have been born a girl”

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A posed portrait of Kuteesa (left) and Ernest (right) who met at Kakuma refugee camp in north western Kenya. Kuteesa identifies as a transgender woman and Ernest as gay. Both fled their home country of Uganda seeking sanctuary in Kenya as refugees. They found neither safety, nor hope. Even the refugee camp, run by the UN is not safe. They suffer death threats and discrimination from others in the camp. Moving around is not safe as Kuteesa explains: “Whenever we try to fetch water, there are so many people outside there who are not gays because we lack piped water in our home, even going out to buy some food; the shops don’t sell to us.  They refuse to sell to you because you are gay and that is why we no longer purchase some things.” Even seeking health care is not safe. Kuteesa says “We are so far from the hospitals and so can’t walk there because if you do, you can be stoned to death. Even if you are sick, you have to just suffer in case you fail to get someone to escort you to the hospitals… Everywhere you go, people ridicule you, and we are so misery now.” Both hope to be resettled: “I would like for us to have enough freedom to live freely without having to hide our feelings in public just like it is in some foreign countries” says Kuteesa.
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

Kuteesa & Ernest/


“we had gone to the Clinic 7 hospital one day and met a group of Sudanese who shouted when they saw us and even brought tires and firewood saying they wanted to burn us. They ended up beating me and my husband. We were out of hope when the UN car came and took us to clinic 7.”

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

AD & AJ/


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

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Anthony G/


“My name is anthony, im 24, maybe 25 by the time you read this. On the left photo i am 15, on the right i am 24, on my wedding day to the love of my life. I never thought id live to be this old, its pretty mind blowing to me.”

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David Rose/


“but when it’s come to lgbt issues, we are unable to married who we love, laws make us live apart from society.”

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

Pearl/


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

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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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wlii-c-180626-iran-Arash

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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Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

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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wlii-c-India-Sandipta

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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