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

Funeka/


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

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A posed portrait of Lizzie Venfolo. In July 2012, a man came in to the house of 22 year old Pumeza Nkolonzi’s grandmother, where Pumeza lived. He fired four shots, one hit the wall one hit Pumeza in the chest, one in the arm. As Pumeza stumbled backwards in her bedroom she shouted at the man “what have I done to you?” and then the fatal shot hit her in the forehead. In the house at the time was her grandmother, Lizzie Venfolo and five year old cousin Nolufefe Venfolo. Pumeza had been receiving threats of violence against her. Family, friends, activists, and the police all say she was killed because she was a lesbian. No one was ever convicted of the crime. The family feel the police have ignored the case because Pumeza was a lesbian. South Africa. November 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

LIZZUE & PUMEZA/


“What did I do to you, why are you shooting me.’ He continued and shot her on the forhead that third bullet threw my beloved daughter to the ground.”

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A posed portrait of 20 year old Olwetu with her partner Ntombozuko, 31. They say that they face verbal abuse everyday in the township of Khayelitsha. They are called ‘Tom Boys’ and ‘Witches.’ Twice Ntombozuko has been violently attacked because of her sexuality. The first time was in 2010 when, late one night, she was out with her friends. A group of drunken men started shouting at her and her friends: “here’s these bitches trying to steal our girls”. The three men then attacked. Ntombozuko was knocked to the ground and beaten. Her friends were beaten as well. The second time, in 2013, she was walking home late one night when a group of men surrounded her and attacked her. A car came down the road and they ran. It was then that she saw the blood on her shirt. She survived the attack but lives in fear of the streets outside her front door: “Even now I’m not feeling safe when I walk in the street”. She says the love of her partner has helped her to recover from the pain. They have been together 8 months and hope to marry. South Africa. November 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Olwetu & Ntombozuko/


“here’s these bitches trying to steal our girls” cried the men before attacking Ntombozuko and her friends.

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@covygo

@covygo/


“Why are you lesbian?” his tone demanded answers and was very interrogative. This is a constant task when holding hands in public, that we must explain ourselves. It feels as if we owe everyone an explanation for being together.”

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Amanda/


“Then he said he is going to show me that I am a girl, he pulled out a gun and told me to strip off my clothes.”

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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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