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.

domi

Domi/


“I came out to my closest friends when I was 14, and my parents turned out to discover when I was 15, and since that my life has been really hard. My dad accepts me but my mom doesn’t. She moved me away from my school and friends, she doesn’t let me go alone anywhere, and tells me I’m the shame of the family.”

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the-veiled-truth

The Veiled Truth/


“My mother calls me gay when she wants to tell me that i am sick, and then after it she asks if i am ill or if there is something wrong with me, as if her remark on me being gay is not enough emphasis for her that i am -in her opinion- sick and got something wrong going on in me.”

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A posed portrait of 37 year old Yves Serges.  Early one morning in January 2011, Yves Serge was asleep in his room. He was awoken by the voice of his cousin. He looked out the window to see his cousin surrounded by around 15 men. He was crying. Yves opened the door, when he did so the men rushed inside. They dragged him out, put him on the back of a motorbike and drove into the night. He had no idea where his kidnappers were taking him. They stopped at a cross-road, pulled him off the bike, stripped him, and started beating him all over his body with planks of wood. He was forced to sit on an empty beer bottle so that it entered his rectum. They continued to beat him. They started interrogating him, “you are a faggot, tell us who you have sex with and where we can find them?” Yves refused to answer. The kidnappers piled three large truck tires and made Yves to go inside of them. They came up to the height of his chest. They took petrol from their motorbikes and poured it over his head and body. They wanted to burn Yves alive. At that moment, people from Yves neighborhood arrived. The details of what happened next are not clear to Yves, he was semi-conscious and overwhelmed by fear. He does know though that some of his family members saved him from the lynching. While Yves has recovered physically, the experience has left him deeply traumatized. He is constantly reminded of the night, he is deeply afraid of the return of his kidnappers and has difficulty making relationships now. Douala, Cameroon. December 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Yves Serges/


“they judged it was time to take the next step which was to burn me alive in big trucks wheels that were in this intersection, no sooner said than done, that’s when I found myself in these wheels naked, they removed the fuel from a motorcycle and poured it on me.”

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Nix/


“I went to an all boys grammar school, where the words ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ were often thrown around. I felt the need to hide and ‘stay in the closest’ because being openly gay was not socially acceptable there. I didn’t want to give the bullies another reason to harass me, because they already bullied me for the colour of my skin, my demeanour and my feminine voice.”

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A posed portrait of 31 year old Mimi (not her real name) who came to Kuala Lumpur from Selangor, outside the city. “I came to Kuala Lumpur, just like everyone else, to get a job, and what I thought would be an easy life. At first it was just that - I worked with a fashion designer for four years. I was happy. I was renting an apartment dressing as myself (as a woman). At night time I’d go out, have fun… I had a boyfriend, he was my first love, but I found out he was seeing another trans woman, so after two years we broke up. I was very depressed. I wasn’t getting any support, I was feeling vengeance towards men so I started hanging around with my trans friends, many of them were sex workers, but they could understand everything. I got involved in nightlife – sex work and drugs. It helped me to forget about my boyfriend and the pressures I felt from society. My performance at my job went down dramatically. Before I knew it, I was addicted to drugs. I stopped my job. I moved closer to the other trans. I didn’t realize how low I was getting until I was taken to prison. I was arrested for selling drugs. No matter how much money I found from sex work, it was never enough, it always went on drugs. Now when the police see me they say – “oh you again.” I’ve been arrested many times. Sometimes for drugs, sometimes for sex work, but the most often it is the Jawi (the religious department, under the Sharia Law) for cross-dressing.” There is very little support for transgender drug users. There is only one place that provides support but only to males and females. “It is hard for us to go to het health services. When we go there they call us by our male names”,  “Society looks down on us transgender. There is a real prejudice. People call us names, they look at transgender as a sex object, nothing else, we are not seen as normal people like men and women are. People persecute rather than getting to know or help us.” “Now I’m sleeping on the street, on a cardboard. If I’m lucky I get a client and I can stay a night in a hotel with them.” “I want to stop drugs but I must take them to survive, just to be normal. I’m getting older now, I have nothing, and I’m the eldest in the family. I feel bad because I am a very bad example to my younger siblings.” Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. January 2015.  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

Mimi/


“I started to involve as a sex worker initially just for fun, then i get serious and working full time. At first everything is fascinating, i get so many customers and my life was quite luxurious.
I always go shopping and fulfill my every needs. At that time life is so perfect but ‘the sky is not always bright’.”

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daniel

Daniel/


“The most difficult was for my brothers, one of them beat me, he deformed my face. We stop to talk during one year and half. After that he apologized for being a monster and what he wants is my happiness, doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not. I want your happiness because you’re my brother.”

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Prescott/


“The contemporary Chinese youth are very open, but the elder are conservative very much, they will feel disgusting and strange if he see gay people, my family are like kind of this espeically. Once upon a time, my mum asked me why I love Lady Gaga, why I love the gay people? I told her the gay is nothing, they are just like normal people, a people to find his true love, is anything wrong? She got very angry, she thought my point of view and attitude are wrong absolutely, she said love is built on the physiology!”

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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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IMG_7110

Saaree/


“I BORN UNLUCKY….. I had good childhood until I was sexual assaulted by my uncle in the age where I don’t even no the meaning gay barbie girlie it was my pet name nobody’s thought why I am like this, whether its my mistake or gods.”

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Anonymous/


“I thought she’s my best friend she would understand, when I came out to her at the age of 13 she said that I am sick and I need to go to hell, she never spoke to me ever again and eventually I lost all my friends and my depression grew depper and depper at the age of 14 I tried to commit suicide.”

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IMG_5763

C.C./


“At the race briefing I pulled the race coordinator aside and asked her if there would be a problem with the club shirt I planned on wearing on race day. I told her I was representing a lesbian running club. The concerned look on her face said it all.”

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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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nawras

Nawras/


“despite the beatings and insults and the humiliating and hard words and despite being deprived of my most basic rights for almost 3 months… I would not give up because I knew I was right… breathing in the free air and crying both from happiness/relief and sadness. I thanked God and prayed and stood there staring at the sea until it was time to escape from Syria.”

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A posed portrait of Nathalie (not her real name), 41, who describes herself as a woman who used to be a man. “I’m very happy the way I am, I love myself as a girl. I hate people considering me a transsexual, I’m a full girl!” She is from Aleppo, Syria. She was effeminate as a young man which gave her great problems especially when she entered her 2 ½ years compulsory military service. She faced regular discrimination and punishment during military service because she was effeminate. At the end of the service she was imprisoned in the military jail for 9 month because they knew she was gay. There she was tortured. Back in her home town of Aleppo she faced regular discrimination. She became deeply depressed and tried to commit suicide by jumping from the balcony of her apartment. Things were bad before the war, but they got worse because of the fighting in Aleppo. Her house was destroyed in the bombing. There was chaos and people turned on each other. “No one loved us as a family because of who I am.” She said. People from the LGBT community started being targeted to a much greater extent. She was deeply affected by the murder of her gay friend - “I knew a gay guy that they caught. They slaughtered him and placed him in the garbage. When I heard his story… this guy was so nice to me, this incident affected me so much. He was my friend. If they could kill him then we could see everyone would be a target. They (The Free Syrian Army) even said on TV they would kill us (LGBT community)”. She and her family decided to leave the country due to the bombing and the danger Nathalie felt she was in. “If I was living 1% in ease in Syria, I wouldn’t have come here” she says. Her mother has always accepted her for who she is “My mum is my life, she suffered with me so much. She is like my soul.” Nathalie now lives in Beirut with her mum and her sister hoping to be ressetled. “I want someone to hold me, I want a hand on the heart and a country that offers me security. That’s what my mum has been to me. I couldn’t leave my mum and come alone. I hope this message will reach someone.” They survive on donations and support from NGOs. “I will die before I go back to Syria” she says. Beirut, Lebanon. February 2015.  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

Nathalie/


“I don’t want to write about my story because it bothers me a lot, it is exhausting me and makes me cry.”

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meg

Meg/


“I grew up in a series of small military towns. I came out at 11 years old. By the time I turned 19 I lost three friends to LGBT related hate violence. My story is the unconventional casualty of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In the mid 90s the military was a culture of fear for LGBT service members, but many people don’t realize the DADT culture of fear was also handed down to the LGBT family members of service people. I was the oldest daughter of a teenage mother. My family had no idea what to do with a prepubescent queer kid.”

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A posed posed portrait of Ishmel (not his real name) who is gay. In December 2013 he was taken from his home by a vigilante group aligned to Bauchi City Sharia Courts who suspected him of being gay. They slapped him and beat him with electric cables. He was held in prison for over 40 days. He made several appearances at the Sharia Court. He was lashed 15 times with a horse whip, but then acquitted of committing homosexual acts as there were no witnesses to the crime. Sodomy is punishable by death under Sharia Law but requires four witnesses. Since Nigeria’s president signed a harsh law criminalizing homosexuality throughout the country, arrests of gay people have multiplied, advocates have been forced to go underground, some people fearful of the law have sought asylum overseas and news media demands for a crackdown have flourished. Three young men were recently flogged 20 times in a northern Nigerian court room for being gay. Some consider them lucky. The penalty for gay sex under local Islamic law is death by stoning. Nigeria, April 2014.   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 af

Ishmel/


“After that they took us back to cage, our cell room. Before they start giving us food we spent four days in a place where you can’t see anybody, no light, in a very deep darkness. And after I release I face many problems with my relatives and my friends.. My parents sent me away from there and said they don’t give me shelter again. They abandon me… I need my parents to give me back the love they showed to me when I was a small boy because I can’t live without them, but the condition that I found myself in make me to live without them, so I need their love back.”

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IMG_20150914_181124

Anonymous/


“Word got around our community and soon I was being sexually harassed by the boys in my school and even grown men. I was no longer a human being to people, I was an object…I was raped later that year and everyone blamed me. In the eyes of my family and community I was a sexual deviant who had no voice. If I said no, it couldn’t be taken as a ‘real no’. At 18 years old I was kicked out because my mother didn’t want to risk me influencing my little sister any longer.”

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A posed portrait of 41 year old Marc Lambert Lamba. In May 2005 Marc was arrested at a bar in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde along with nearly 40 others. Many were able to bribe their way out of the police station, the remaining 11, of which Lambert was one, were put in prison. They spent 12 months awaiting trial. In the end seven of the 11 were charged with the crime of homosexuality and sentenced to seven months in prison. They had already served their time awaiting trial so were released. Lambert says,  “it was a nightmare for me but I transformed this nightmare into an opportunity – it gave me the chance to denounce to the international community the situation of discrimination against people in my country for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Thanks to that a LGBT movement was born in Cameroon”. Lambert took the Cameroonian Government to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at The United Nations and won his case. The Cameroonian Government ignored the verdict. Yaounde, Cameroon. December 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Lambert/


“My arrest and my incarceration was a real nightmare for me and for my life. Since that day, humiliation, shame, contempt, insults and other evils are part of my daily life. Even after my release, my situation has turned into torment in my family, the neighborhood, at work. I do not participate in any family events (death, marriage, meetings…) nor in the neighborhood.”

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Luis

Luis/


“I’ve been raised in a pentecostal christian family, listening every day of my live than homosexuality is a sin and all gays go to hell. When I find out I was GAY (11 Yo, maybe), I was so scared. I didn’t tell anybody, until I was 15, when a friend of mine told it AT school and people became to laughed at me.”

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LI_13

Lorenza/


“When my mother found out about my relationship with a woman, she was suffering from cancer and the world fell on me. I felt responsible for her unhappiness, I felt her biggest disappointment. Right now she began using an offensive language to contact me, refusing to accept me and my relationship…This year, after two years living with my girlfriend, my mother came for the first time in the house that I share with the love of my life. She still refuses to meet Ilenia, but you know, you need to make do with what you have. Things can change, just be patient.”

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A posed portrait of 36 year old Erina who was forced to become a sex worker to survive. Like many tans-gender women in Malaysia, she has faced discrimination and violence on numerous occasions. Aside from the casual verbal abuse, being forced to wear male clothes in a job she had in a hotel, her family members forcibly cutting her hair short, she has been arrested and beaten. She has also been raped, once by three men who also beat her with sticks. She didn’t make a report to the police “The police are bad too” she says, “and the next thing you know, you’ll be the one who is arrested”. On one occasion, when she was arrested for cross-dressing (a crime in some parts of Malaysia), she was taken to the police cells. One of the inmates forced her to perform oral sex on him. She was transferred to another prison where, the next day, she was raped. One of the inmates penetrated her. He was not wearing a condom. Erin complained to the police, but they threatened to beat her and sent her back into the same cell with the man who raped her. For transgender sex workers, rape is common. Most feel they cannot go to the police as they are considered men and there is a perception that men cannot be raped. Worse, they will face further persecution from the police should they report a case of sexual violence. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. January 2015.  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

Erina/


The First time my experience arrested by police in Kuala Lumpur, I stay in lock up for 2 weeks I was raped by the Inmates. I Told the police about my case but the police didn’t anything.

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KC-smallA

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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ALLYB

Ally/


“I Was Teased, Harassed, Beaten-Up And Sometimes Even Left Hungry By Some Of The Prefects At This School. Names Such As Sissy, Gay, Faggot, Msenge (that is swahili for gay men) and bwabwa (slang swahili for gay men) Were Names That I Heard Throughout My Primary School Years… A Single Action (a kiss) And The Three Words ( i ♡ u) Changed The Whole Scenario For All Of Us. One Month Later, Donald Was More Than Lets Say A Brother… I Sit Down And Ask Myself, Was Being In Love With Donald Illegal? Nowhere In The School Rules Did It Say Anything Of The Sort!… Is Love That Illegal? … Alot Of Students And Teachers Always Made It Sound Like Being Me Was A Crime/Sin/Abnormality!”

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dinah-malila

Dinah & Malila/


“I have been battling my father’s homophobia all my life. I would say it stemmed from his Christian (Catholic) values. Thus, he would tell me being gay is sinful and dirty. I thought I would allow him the chance to accept my life by attending our wedding – he declined, he chose not to be there or walk me down the aisle. To this day, I haven’t gotten a congratulations or acknowledgement that I am a happily married woman.”

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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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Screenshot_2015-08-22-12-17-28

C.J./


“At first, I thought that I was having a vivid nightmare. I remember one of the guys talking to me, while he was raping me. He was telling me that I would thank them for this, later. That this would ‘save me’ and prevent me from going to Hell.”

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Micha-w

Micha/


“I have been beaten, kicked and Sexually abused, my friends have died, and suffered punishments from the police.”

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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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Nurlan/


“I live in fear. I can’t be myself in My family, I fear and hate my father…but I try to live, we have only one life…”

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A posed portrait of 40 year old drag performer and human rights advocate Shelah!!! at home in Kuala Lumpur. Shelah!!! Was a radio presenter for BFM before she was taken off air after the station received complaints from The Censorship Commission. “they still haven’t told me why I was taken off the air”. Shelah is asked to perform for corporate events, but would never be allowed on national television. “In some respect things are going backwards” she says, “there are sectors of the Malay community that look at the LGBT community as a big no, no… There is no differentiation in the minds of politicians between Malay and Islam. They feel like LGBT people are a challenge to the Malay identity. The funny thing is that 20 years ago, drag queens were visible. Malaysia is in the middle of a racial, political, sexual identity crisis… We are not fighting for LGBT issues, we’re fighting for basic human rights – the right to be!” During the day Shelah is Edwin. He was a committee member of Seksualiti Merdeka a LGBT movement and collective of individuals and NGOs around Malaysia that provided a safe and open space for anyone and everyone to share their stories and enjoy each others individuality while learning about things like legal rights, safe sex, and police discrimination. In 2011 at the beginning of the fourth Seksualiti Merdeka the festival was labeled by the media and politicians as “The Sex Club” and banned. Two truck-loads of police came to the festival to enforce the ban. “There were more cops than attendees” says Edwin. Since then Seksualiti Merdeka has not been able to take place. Edwin says “I feel so passionately about this because this is where Shelah first officially appeared in the world. It’s very upsetting. I thought I had found my own safe space. It’s painful when you see something of such great potential breaking down.” Malaysia. January 2015.  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

Shelah!/


“They feel like LGBT people are a challenge to the Malay identity… We are not fighting for LGBT issues, we’re fighting for basic human rights – the right to be!”

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Lis 01

Lis/


“They [her parents] took me to psychologists, psychiatrists and even a priest, searching for someone who could ‘change’ me. …they saw me like a confused and rebel little girl.”

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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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A posed portrait of 25 year old Brice. In 2012 Brice was living with his mother. One evening, his mother arrived home from work and said angrily to him, “They just called me and told me that you are gay! Is that true?” Brice did not reply. His brother, who knew he was gay confirmed it to his mother. That same day his mother took him to an evangelist to “deliver you from the spirit of homosexuality.” He was brought by the Pastor in front of the entire congregation “to be delivered.” “Spirit of homosexuality come out of this boy!” the Pastor said, and pushed him to the ground. As he fell down the Pastor cried “thanks to the Lord – he is delivered”. To keep his mother happy Brice went along with the performance. When he returned home with his mother, she asked him “Do you feel free?” he told her that nothing had changed, the performance, to him, felt like a scene from a movie. The next day she took him to a Catholic Priest. There, the priest accused Brice of being a devil. Brice got angry and left. The priest told Brice’s mother that they needed to pray together. His mother continued to pressure him, in the name of God, to change. No amount of prayer changed Brice’s sexuality. His mother gave up and said “You have to choose – either change or leave!” Brice didn’t consider this a choice he could make. He always knew he was Gay. He felt he had no choice but to leave. “Since you have chosen to be gay, never contact me again!” His mother said. Brice has not spoken to her since. “I’m no longer close to my mother or some of my sisters. Maybe this is the price I have to pay for being gay”. Yaounde, Cameroon. December 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are illegal in Uganda. A discriminatory law was passed then struck down and homophobic attacks rose tenfold after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. In Cameroon it is also illegal. More cases against suspected homosexuals are brought here than any other African country. In stark contrast with the rest of the continent, same sex relationships are legal in South Africa. The country has the most liberal laws toward gays and lesbians on the continent, with a constitution guaranteeing LBGTQI rights. Because of this, LGBTQI Africans from all over the continent fleeing persecution have come to South Africa. Despite these laws, many lesbians have been victims of ‘corrective rape’ and homosexuals have been murdered for their sexuality. Homophobia is by no means just an African problem. In Russia, politicians spread intolerance. In June 2013 the country passed a law making “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relationships” a crime. Attacks against gays rose. Videos of gay men being tortured have been posted online. In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, law currently provides for whipping and up to a 20-year prison sentence for homosexual acts involving either men or women. Increased extreme Islamification in the Middle East is making life more dangerous for gay men there, as evidenced by ISIS’s recent murders of homosexual men. While homophobic discrimination is widespread in Lebanon, life is much safer there than Iran, Iraq, and Syria from which refugees are fleeing due to homophobic persecution. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos for Witness Change

Brice/


“God made no gay but if a man accepts himself as gay he is a devil” the priest told Brice before he prayed over him to “cure” him of his “disease.”

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Ilem 01

Ilem/


“When I was 13 years old the entire school find out I am lesbian. It was a very distressing feeling and made me feel isolated and abnormal. But the students and teachers did know how to call me: ‘la cachapera’ (it’s an offensive way to say “dyke” in Venezuela). …but whatever you do, don’t give up: mostly, at some point and in some way, things get better, even if it’s just a little.”

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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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Dagan/


I grew up in the fundamental Christian household… From the time I was 8 to the time I came out I was labeled by my grandparents an abomination… I now know it’s okay for me to be with other guys. I feel freed.

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A posed portrait of 29 year old Wolfheart (not his real name) from Beirut, Lebanon. In July 2011 he was arrested: “I was in a cruising area in Beirut. I was with my partner, in my car, driving around, meeting new people of course. I started chatting with someone in a car coming in the opposite direction. We were talking when a green car with tinted windows stopped behind us. The car in which the person I was talking to drove off quickly. Before I knew it I had the barrel of a Kalashnikov against my head and I was ordered out of the car. My partner tried to escape, but he was caught. One of them was wearing a military uniform. They shouted at me to put my hands behind my back, they handcuffed me to my partner and blindfolded us. We were taken up to the police office and they starting searching us. We had to take off our pants and drop our underpants. We were made to squat to see if we were hiding anything. One of the three officers in the room took out his mobile phone and started to take pictures while the others would take turns making fun of us, making signs behind us, and the other would slap us. They took my partner to another room. Then I started hearing my partner screaming next door. They were torturing him. I felt sad, we had been together for six years, it was horrible to think of him in that situation. They found gay porn (on my phone). When they found that I started to feel scared. They didn’t stop insulting us. They would ask us questions like “do you like to get fucked?!” If we didn’t answer they would slap us.” For three days they were tortured and questioned. They were then taken from the military department to the police department. They were placed in a small airless room. “I felt like I was suffocating there.” They stayed in there for 12 days. They were then sent to the police office specialized in investigating moral issues. “We were there for 18 days sharing a small cell with, at one time, 22 others.” The interrogation continued. “They asked us many questions about my sexuality. They continued to beat my partner. I could sometimes hear him screaming.” After 18 days they were taken to court. There they waited seven days for trial, “we were being charged with homosexuality.” They were given a prison sentence of 45 days and a fine of US$200. “I was very happy to leave prison. But I was unhappy because the news had reached my partners family and they were really unhappy. We had to break up.” “Six months later I drove through the same area and saw the same guys doing the same thing, holding a gun to the head of some people in a car and arresting them. I felt angry, I would like to see their own children subjected to this treatment! I felt angry but powerless and that at anytime I might receive the same treatment.” Beirut, Lebanon. February 2015.  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

Wolfheart/


“The crime was that I am homosexual, and the punishment was forty days in jail losing my job, and losing my partner.”

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Mel&Con/


“Walking down the shopping street, a group of young adults followed her, taunting and laughing, questioning if she were a man or a women.”

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A posed portrait of Jean Yannick (not his real name), 38, from Gabon.  “I left Gabon because I was attacked earlier this year by four guys”. Jean Yannick was stopped while driving on his way home. Four men forced him to take them to his house where, in front of his French partner, they gang raped him. The next day Jean Yannick went to the police to report the rape. “We can’t help someone like you because our culture doesn’t have gay people, and if those people come to kill you, we can’t do anything. If you want to be gay you should leave the country.” The police chief told Jean Yannick to sit down. The Chief then took a pair of scissors and cut his shoulder length hair short. He was then taken to the police cells and kept there for 13 days. He was released with no case opened against his attackers. Jean Yannick and his partner went to the French embassy and asked that he be given a visa to enter France. The embassy staff said they would not give him refugee status based on persecution of his sexuality. Jean Yannick’s partner encouraged him to go to South Africa as he didn’t need a visa to enter the country and he perceived it as safe for LGBT people. They made a plan to meet in South Africa later, where they would get married, and then travel to France to live their lives there. 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

Jean Yannick/


“I have been raped and held by a group of 4 young people who have expressed their homophobia directly. Indeed, the pill is still hard to swallow and the story is still hard to tell, but despite this I still stand up. I am me and I will stay me.”

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Mohammed/


“What can i do we especially this part on the world is so conservative and far away from getting our rights as lgbt community its still big taboo suject you cant even talk about it in public. Nobody likes me no one even talk to me i don’t know why im still alive to be honest but i hope there is hope.”

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A posed portrait of 45 year old Abou El Kheir, with his partner, 20 year old Sari. Sari came to Lebanon from the Syrian city of Hammmah, on 15 August 2015: “I was living with my grandparents until I was 7 then I went to live with my father who had remarried. One night, when I was 10, it was a summers night, I woke up to find my father raping me. He raped me ten times over the course of a couple of years. My step-mother saw me once being raped. I didn’t say anything, but still my father turned on me and started to hate me, he beat me, and called me bad names, he treated me like I was a maid. I stayed until I was 15, and then I went back to my grandparents place. All my family was against me. I was living under the mask, because I didn’t want them to know I was gay. All my family treated me badly. My last three years in Syria were terrible because the war started. It didn’t affect my life directly, I was an hour from the fighting, but it affected me emotionally. And we were afraid because everyday we would hear rumors that the war would come to the city.” Sari moved to Lebanon to live with his mother, who is Lebanese. “I lived with my mother for three months.” The relationship with his mother’s husband was not good though and he was thrown out of the house. He spent four days on the streets of Beirut. “I met an old man. I spent a month and half at his house, it was very bad conditions.” He was helped to find a new place for himself where he spent six months. He worked for part of that time but he faced a lot of difficult times. “I was gaining gay features, more and more. People started making fun of me.” Sari says though that all his life his family used to tell him he should be more masculine “I should be a man, they would say. I was always more feminine than my cousins and I think that was a big part of why I was treated badly.” My cousin once asked me “why are you very feminine – later on, you’ll get fucked!” “he was 25 and I w

Abou El Kheir/


“You are rejected here. You will die because you are gay. I’m seeking to live in a peaceful place and feel comfortable. Not spending all my time in fear from police and society.”

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Darya/


“We are killed, really, and our lives and souls maimed. And even if you are sitting at home in the closet – it does not mean that at one moment you won’t become the next victim. And the police will not help you, just like me, they just kicked me out, humiliated me, cut my statement as soon as they heard those treasured words – ‘I am a lesbian.’“

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Luca

Luca/


“I believe that if I had not lived what I lived, I wouldn’t be as strong as I am now.”

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A posed posed portrait of Yunus (not his real name) who says he has been imprisoned and tortured because of his sexual orientation – he is Gay. He does his best to support other young gay men who have suffered persecution through his small group Hope Alive Intiative. Since Nigeria’s president signed a harsh law criminalizing homosexuality throughout the country last month, arrests of gay people have multiplied, advocates have been forced to go underground, some people fearful of the law have sought asylum overseas and news media demands for a crackdown have flourished. Three young men were recently flogged 20 times in a northern Nigerian court room for being gay. Some consider them lucky. The penalty for gay sex under local Islamic law is death by stoning. Nigeria, April 2014.  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.

Yunus/


“I held my breath and struggled to hear the words. They were chanting “Bring him out, we will kill him to appease God.” And then I heard them shouting my name. They had come for me…”

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Krystopher/


“When I was younger I was bullied so much that I attempted suicide by taking my fathers medication.”

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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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Artyom/


“I was alone at school and alone at home because I couldn’t tell my parents about my problems… The path of my boyhood – it was loneliness, loneliness, loneliness. It seemed to me that I was the only one in the whole world. The first time I asked God to take my life was when I was 12 years old.”

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Shirine/


“They told me that if I stayed they would not be responsible for my safety. I knew that meant… they will rape me and discover who I am, then they will kill me.”

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