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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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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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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Tina/


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

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

Apollo/


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

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A posed posed portrait of 25 year old Miiro, who describes being evicted from his home because, he says, he is gay: “We heard people stoning the door and windows while shouting, telling us to immediately leave the house because they were tired of us, claiming that we are curse to the village, and even to the teenagers in the village… After a while of storming the door, it broke and we were pulled out, thrown on the ground, beaten and flogged for almost an hour. We were half dead. And they burnt all things in the house in the process. The leader of the village intervened and they decided to take us to the police station for life imprisonment.” Miiro spent four days in police cells before being released by human rights lawyers. He went into hiding for two and a half months. He received $160 relocation money from a non-governmental organization but he says it wasn’t enough to start a new life. Uganda, September 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Miiro/


“We heard people stoning the door and windows while shouting, telling us to immediately leave the house because they were tired of us, claiming that we are curse to the village, and even to the teenagers in the village… After a while of storming the door, it broke and we were pulled out, thrown on the ground, beaten and flogged for almost an hour. We were half dead.”

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A posed posed portrait of ‘E’ a young gay man in Uganda who regularly self-harms. Some people persecuted for their sexuality or gender identity become depressed. Uganda, September 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against g

E/


“When I hear those hate words that homophobic people keep saying about gay people, I really get angry because it feels indirectly that they are saying or referring to me coz I am one of those gay people they are hating on.”

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A posed posed portrait of 23 year old Raymond, a trans-woman and sex worker in Kampala, Uganda. “In my childhood I used to play with dolls, some boys nicknamed me girl boy. One time some boys undressed me to see if am a boy or a girl and I felt so small. I went to tell my auntie about what the boys did and said that I deserved it. It pained me so much whereby she just supported them. Due to behaving like a girl, my auntie who I was living with didn’t allow me to stay with their kids. She made me stay in a chicken hut for three years. I used to think that I am abnormal because people used to say that who practices this is a homosexual and such people are cursed. I prayed a lot to myself and had to fast but nothing could change. Things worsened when my face appeared in newspaper on the front page. I started receiving phone calls threatening me from different corners that they are going to kill me and my landlord threw me out that he doesn’t entertain gay people.” Uganda, September 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Raymond/


“Things worsened when my face appeared in newspaper on the front page. I started receiving phone calls threatening me from different corners that they are going to kill me and my land lord threw me out that he doesn’t entertain gay people. I became a security threat to my friends and to my organization where I work from.”

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K.C./


“‘But are you even a girl?’ My father asked me, one night, drunk, with disgust in his eyes. He had finally mustered the courage to tell me how he truly felt about me…”

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A posed posed portrait of 20 year old Rihana (standing, not his real name), with his friend and room mate Kim, 25. In early 2014 they were evicted by their landlord and severely beaten by the local community. The police intervened and both were arrested and charged with ‘Homosexuality’. They spent seven months in prison awaiting trial “we were taken to prison and we had hard life e.g. we were beaten, forced to do hard work” says Rihana. They complain that they are continuously harassed by the police. Uganda. Uganda, September 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Rihana & Kim/


“We spent seven months there (in prison) and we came out but we are suffering a lot and we are not feeling well about the society.”

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J&Q/


“You need to be raped to rid of your stupidity of liking a fellow girl.”

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Biggie/


“The world we sit with, we Kuchus, can be hurt, they beat you, attack you, rape you… But even with all this I have lived to be recognized as a leader, rugby player and a feminist who will continue to fight until all of us are see equal.”

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Simon/


“The mob started beating us with stones and sticks with nails saying that we were curses and needed to be killed.”

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Joseph/


“I sometimes develop feelings of committing suicide because of this deep pain for whatever I went through.”

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Bad Black/


“My father asked me to leave his home if I don’t want to be killed.”

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Imran/


“Where was I to start from? How when the only person I trusted in the world turned her back on me? “

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