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.

wlii-c-190108-India-Anonymous

Anonymous/


“I don’t want to tell them because if i want them to accept me like i am, i should also accept them for who they are (people who can never understand).”

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wlii-c-181211-jamaica-Glenroy

Glenroy/


“I was force to start life on my own at the age of 16 after I was attack and almost killed by members of my family”

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23 year old transgender woman Artisha Rajaya Laxmi Rana with her partner 24 year old Armont Samsher Rana who identifies as a gay man. They have been together for six years. Armont says; ÒThey say that couples are made in heaven but we met through Facebook.Ó While Nepal is perceived to have progressive attitudes towards the LGBTQI+ community, Armont says there need to be more work before equality truly exists. ÒWe are happy but we donÕt have the rights to get married. Same sex marriage has not been legalized in Nepal. DonÕt we have the right to live like straight couples and get the legal recognition? ArenÕt we equal like other citizens of the country? DonÕt we have the rights to find our partners? Will the Nepali government listen to our voices? Should we always live like this, without getting married? Our spirit hurts when these questions come to mind.Ó Armont and Artisha are passionate about seeing the fight for equality succeed in Nepal. Armont says; ÒPeople say that we go to America or other places where our love is legal, to get married. But as far as possible we would like to stay in Nepal because it is our home.Ó Nepal's current LGBTQI+ laws are some of the most open in the world Ð including the legal recognition of a third gender. Tangible implementation of the various government orders has been piecemeal though, a 2014 United Nations report noted. And government officials have continued to harass LGBT groups, including by alleging that organizing around homosexuality is illegal in the country. Furthermore, while laws are progressive, discrimination is wide spread, especially within families, where marriage between a man and a woman and the bearing of children are expected of young Nepalese. Kathmandu, Nepal. 02.11.18. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Artisha & Armont Rana/


“Same sex marriage has not been legalized in Nepal. Don’t we have the right to live like straight couples and get the legal recognition? Aren’t we equal like other citizens of the country?”

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ÒI always thought that I was a girl,Ó says 43 year-old transgender woman and make up artist Umisha Pandey. Unlike many trans Nepalese, her family supported her trans identity from early on. Wider society was not so kind. ÒMy childhood passed and in school everyone teased me by calling me a baby girl-boy.Ó With a group of other women she started Blue Diamond Society Ð now NepalÕs biggest and most influential LGBTI organisation. Despite her own immediate family support, she is acutely aware of the impact family pressure has on LGBTQI+ Nepalese. ÒTo face family is really difficult. To say that you are third gender and attracted to the same sex is a courageous act.Ó She see this as a crucial first step though in the countryÕs movement towards a more accepting country. ÒWhen family does not understand, society will not understand, and when society does not understand it is really hard to get the state to understand.Ó When asked about her hopes for the future she says ÒI hope that there will be a society where people like us will also be able to live dignified life.Ó Nepal's current LGBTQI+ laws are some of the most open in the world Ð including the legal recognition of a third gender. Tangible implementation of the various government orders has been piecemeal though, a 2014 United Nations report noted. And government officials have continued to harass LGBT groups, including by alleging that organizing around homosexuality is illegal in the country. Furthermore, while laws are progressive, discrimination is wide spread, especially within families, where marriage between a man and a woman and the bearing of children are expected of young Nepalese. Kathmandu, Nepal. 31.10.18. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Umesha Pandey/


“I was attracted to boys since I was eight years old. I always thought that I was a girl. I preferred girl’s roles when playing make-belief games.”

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wlii-c-181231-cameroon-BrandyKiki

Bandy Kiki/


“This is not me, I thought, So I made up my mind to come clean. First I came out to my family. Their reaction wasn’t good neither was it as bad as I had imagined.”

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Growing up a trans was not easy for 19 year old Angel Lama. ÒI knew I was different in my early age. I used to like wearing skirts. I was kind of like more into pink color more than blue,Ó she says. ÒI was attracted to boys,Ó she adds. ÒAfter harsh bullies and horrible situations I passed out from school to high school where I could not make friends.Ó  She was forced to leave home at 16 by her parents when she refused to give up identifying as female. For a short time she ended up homeless: ÒI was wandering in the streets. At that point I was totally broken because I did not know where to go and ask for foodÑ I was sixteen and half, and everything was strange.Ó She missed two years of school. She has now rededicated herself to her studies and works part time at Blue Diamond Society, a LGBTI organisation in Kathmandu. This year she was crowned ÔMiss Pink 2018Õ - NepalÕs largest and most prestigious transgender beauty pageant: ÒI was once homeless.  Now I am prestigiously crowned Miss Pink Nepal 2018. ItÕs a prestigious stage for transgender women in Nepal. Its a great thing and a great achievement of my life.Ó Speaking about her hopes for the future she says: ÒMy main motivation in life is to make a world a place where normal is not based on gender, body shape, race. But just based on work and your heart.Ó Nepal's current LGBTQI+ laws are some of the most open in the world Ð including the legal recognition of a third gender. Tangible implementation of the various government orders has been piecemeal though, a 2014 United Nations report noted. And government officials have continued to harass LGBT groups, including by alleging that organizing around homosexuality is illegal in the country. Furthermore, while laws are progressive, discrimination is wide spread, especially within families, where marriage between a man and a woman and the bearing of children are expected of young Nepalese. Katmandu, Nepal. 29 October 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Angel Lama/


“I was once homeless. Now I am prestigiously crowned Miss Pink Nepal 2018 It’s a prestigious stage for transgender women in Nepal. Its a great thing and a great achievement of my life.”

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Ash_facebook

Ash/


“I spent nights crying tears on cheeks tears on my pillow I couldn’t cry out loud because if someone hear me they would think I am a monster and pervert I felt so weak and alone I hated myself and I tried to change but one day I stood up and said to myself what if this would be ur last day in life would care about what others say would u care about all the people who are trying to put u down ?”

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It took 27 year-old Maneb Tamang, 14 years to come out. ÒWhen I come to Kathmandu in 2003 I try to talk about my sexual identity with my friends but I afraid so I always hide my feeling that make me depressed.Ó Maneb chose a dramatic way to finally come out. ÒAfter long time last year 2017 I decide to come out with my sexual identity same that time here in Nepal Gay handsome Nepal pageant.Ó He was a finalist and won the Mr Gay Handsome Congeniality Award. He was then asked to do a radio interview. His fears were unfounded: Òby this interview my other straight friends know about me. I feel lucky they message me and call me to encourage for my work.Ó While his friends have been supportive, heÕs still hesitant to tell his family: Òmaybe they donÕt understand it. I donÕt know aboutÉstill they unknown about my sexuality.Ó Maneb councils young LGBT youth through Blue Diamond Society, a LGBTI organisation. His struggle to accept himself as a young person means he is particularly sympathetic to LGBT youth and the challenges they face: Òso many childrenÉtheir parent do not accept this thingÉ they have to be outside, they kick out you know herein  Nepal under 18  LGBTI children working as a prostitute because of that thingsÉÓ Nepal's current LGBTQI+ laws are some of the most open in the world Ð including the legal recognition of a third gender. Tangible implementation of the various government orders has been piecemeal though, a 2014 United Nations report noted. And government officials have continued to harass LGBT groups, including by alleging that organizing around homosexuality is illegal in the country. Furthermore, while laws are progressive, discrimination is wide spread, especially within families, where marriage between a man and a woman and the bearing of children are expected of young Nepalese. Kathmandu, Nepal. 05.11.18. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Manab Tamang/


“I participate this program finally I am select in top 5 finalist and I won a title Mr. Gay Handsome congeniality. Then I face interview on national fm radio by this interview my other straight friends know about me. I feel lucky they message me and call me to encourage for my work.”

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brickwall-c

Adam/


“WE Grew Up In THE 80S, IN A Time When Things WERE CHANGING, BUT Not ENOUGH THAT WE Could RISK ANYONE FINDING Out Our FRIENDSHIP WAS ACTUALLY A RELATIONSHIP.”

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44 year old John (not real name) has always known he is gay. He grew up in Ghana, but then moved to the UK for 12 years. In the UK he was able to be more free and open about his sexuality, but when he returned to Ghana he had to hide his identity again: “Coming back home has its own challenges, as my sexuality of being gay is not accepted.” He has to be especially on guard with his own family: “Due to illness of my mom, I had to return back. We have been a close family and have to be very careful with everything that I do around them.” Ghana. 13 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

John/


“Right through high school I have always admired and loved being with men. My family did not accept my sexuality because of my mixed culture and religion. I was told if I choose to be who I am, I will be disowned and in order not to disgrace them.”

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wlii-c-190121-Egypt-FariedRamadan

Faried/


“I am openly gay on facebook. This meant that most of the love messages turned into hate ones; moreover, some people wrote to me how they wished that i would get cancer again”

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29 year old Eshan Regmi describes himself as follows: ÒMy biological identity is intersex. My gender identity is male. I am heterosexual.Ó He defines intersex as Òthose whose internal or external  reproductive organs do not match the traditional definition.Ó Detailing his early life he says: ÒI was born in 1989 as a daughter in a lower middle class family. I was a brilliant student, and I was always a topper in my school. At the age of thirteen when I was studying in class eight, I began developing masculine characteristics. My parents were in great pain.Ó This is when the discrimination began. ÒSociety began calling me different things. They looked at me differently, and started whispering as soon as I walked by. ÒIs this a boy or a girlÓÑ and laugh at meÉ My friends did not allow me to sit next to them or play with them. Teachers pulled my hair or pinched my breast. I left schoolÉ I started spending time alone. I cried a lot. I felt I was alone in this world. Why is god punishing me? I tried committing suicide several times. My parents were saddened to find me in this condition.Ó His father in particular never gave up on Eshan. ÒMy dad was in pain. Because for whatever I wasÑI was his child and he loved meÉ He realized that I was not like other daughters.Ó And then, his father died. ÒI felt that there was nobody left for me in this world. I felt that I was very broken.Ó Against his familyÕs wishes Eshan left home. He eventually came across Blue Diamond Society, a LGBTI organisation. Their focus was not on intersex but through them he started to learn more about the issue. Eshan started doing work with the organisation. On several occasions he tried to have relationship with women, but it never worked out. That was before he was reunited with an old friend. ÒWhen I felt alone in my village a person had helped me in many ways. She was my only friend. Later, I found out that she wanted to spend her life with me.Ó Eshan told her all about being intersex. ÒI warned her to not be closer. But thankfully it turned out that her childhood friend was just like me. She then agreed to be with me. We decided to live together. I dont know how much she loves me but I love her a lotÉ I had nobody and she constantly took care of me.Ó Complicating their relationship is the fact that they are from different castes. ÒI am a Brahmin and she is a Dalit. After my relationship began, my family learned of her caste. They resisted our union but I have always been insistent.Ó While EshanÕs brothers are aware of his partnerÕs caste, his mother is not. ÒI have always been rebellious,Ó he says mischeviuously. ÒMy mother does not know my partnerÕs caste, and she has eaten the food cooked from Ôan untouchableÕ.Ó While life has much improved, it is far from perfect. ÒMy identity has been my biggest challenge. I did not get jobs or opoortunities. I do not have the chance to live a dignified life and have faced discrimination at every turn.Ó Speaking of the future Eshan says ÒI want to do good work for the intersex community. I am in the process of starting my own organisation. I hope that my activism will allow people from the Intersex community to live a dignified life.Ó Nepal's current LGBTQI+ laws are some of the most open in the world Ð including the legal recognition of a third gender. Tangible implementation of the various government orders has been piecemeal though, a 2014 United Nations report noted. And government officials have continued to harass LGBT groups, including by alleging that organizing around homosexuality is illegal in the country. Furthermore, while laws are progressive, discrimination is wide spread, especially within families, where marriage between a man and a woman and the bearing of children are expected of young Nepalese. Kathmandu, Nepal. 31.10.18. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Eshan Regmi/


In many places the ‘I’ is kept separate from LGBTI. But within the I—the same way man and women can have different sexual orientation and gender identity—its the same with an Intersex person.

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wlii-c-181024-india-ankit

Ankit/


“As long as I remember,i was 5 years old when i was bullied for the first time. Hindi derogatory words like Hijra,Chakka etc. Were thrown to me and these WORDs really had an IMPact on my childhood.”

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Kiria is a 24 year old transgender woman. She’s been clear about her gender identity since she was 10 years old. Rarely amongst LGBTQI+ Mozambicans, she was accepted by her family. She hopes to get married and have a family. Mozambique neither recognizes her as a woman nor allows same sex marriage though. “I intend to get married abroad, and here in the country have children. In this case the children I want to have will be adopted and be happy.” Maputo, Mozambique. 20 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Kiria/


“I’m Kiria. I’m 24 years old. I admitted to my sexual orientation naturally and discovered it at the age of 10.”

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35 year old Baobab (not his real name) is a gay man and LGBT activist in Ghana. When visiting his boyfriend, a group of men confronted him threatening to out him if he didn’t give them money. He was forced to take them to an ATM where he gave them what he could. He promised to give them more the next day. Instead though, he went to the police. Initially the police would do nothing to help him, but Baobab insisted until the police agreed to accompany him back to where his blackmailers were waiting for him, and arrested them. Speaking of the interaction he says: “You know it takes a lot of courage to handle these people. I mean the police and all that, they don't know the law.” Baobab knows that he is an exception among LGBT Ghanaians, most of whom would not turn to the police fearing stigmatization or being treated as criminals themselves. “They fear to report such cases,” he says. Stigma destroys lives according to Baobab: “Stigma kills. The virus doesn't kill. The virus can be suppressed. Inasmuch as stigma also can be unraveled and stigma can be addressed. But, a virus... never kills, but stigma does.” Ghana, Accra. 14 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Baobab/


“I was gay from day one. I discovered my sexuality and sexual preference very early in life.”

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A posed portrait of 36 year-old transgender woman Sunita Thing with her 34 year-old heterosexual husband Shankar Koirala and their sons Sudip Thing, 13, and Dipesh Thing, 10. At 12 years-old Sunita, from a poor rural family, was sent from her village to Kathmandu to be a domestic worker. She knew she was different, and wondered why, but knew no better than to obey her father when, at 17 years-old she was asked to marry a woman. It didnÕt feel right to her though, so much so that she tried to kill herself. Soon her first child was born, and then a second. She had started to become aware of the LGBTQI+ community through Blue Diamond Society, a LGBTI organisation, and realised she was trans. ÒAfter meeting several people like me at Blue Diamond Society, my happiness knew no limit. I started changing on a daily basis.Ó She then met a man. ÒHis name is Shankar and I fell in love with him. We started living together.Ó This brought her into conflict with her wife. ÒI then realized that it was impossible for me and my wife to live together, because we thought differently. We got divorced and went our separate ways. I got my childrenÕs custody.Ó Everything then changed very quickly. ÒI introduced myself as a transgender women and changed my role from their mother to their father. I started counseling them on LGBTI issues from a young age. I started taking them to Blue Diamond SocietyÕs events. My sons have accepted me as their mother and Shankar as their father.Ó Now they present as any other normal family. ÒWe live as husband and wife, like any other couple. We are happy. It has been eleven years.Ò Nepal's current LGBTQI+ laws are some of the most open in the world Ð including the legal recognition of a third gender. Tangible implementation of the various government orders has been piecemeal though, a 2014 United Nations report noted. And government officials have continued to harass LGBT groups, including by alleging that organizing around homosexuality is illegal in the country. Furthermore, while laws are progressive, discrimination is wide spread, especially within families, where marriage between a man and a woman and the bearing of children are expected of young Nepalese. Kathmandu, Nepal. 01.11.18. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Sunita Thing/


“My sons have accepted me as their mother and Shankar as their father. We live as husband and wife, like any other couple. We are happy. It has been eleven years.”

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Boby Tamang, 33 works for Blue Diamond Society, a LGBTI organisation, as an office assistant. She is also a sex worker. As a child Boby recognised she was different from other boys and girls. ÒThere was nobody like me in my village. And I thought that I was completely alone in the world,Ó she says. At the age of 13 she ran away. ÒI left my village because I hoped to find people like me.Ó In Kathmandu she did find people like her: ÒAfter I met other transgender people, I realised that I was not alone and it made me very happy.Ó Her struggles were not over though. Like many other trans people in Nepal, finding work proved difficult. Soon she started doing sex work to survive. ÒWe are forced to do sex work because transgender donÕt get employment opportunities, and get kicked out of school. Normal girls and boys get work, but we transgender have to face difficulties. Even if they hire us, they kick us out after a month or two. We have no choice but to do sex work.Ó Boby has now been a sex worker for 10 years. Her work has meant sheÕs been arrested 10 times. She has had to be strong to survive. That has sometimes meant taking a stand for who she is. But as she has grown older, sheÕs also changed how she reacts to those who donÕt understand her: ÒIn the early days, people discriminated against us. I used to fight a lot. I told them, Ôwe are humans, cut us you will find blood and shit, the same as yours.Õ I have now given up. How many can you fight? Let the one who says it, say it. I have learned to tolerate their words. They cannot be educated. I am not going to care what anyone thinks.Ó Nepal's current LGBTQI+ laws are some of the most open in the world Ð including the legal recognition of a third gender. Tangible implementation of the various government orders has been piecemeal though, a 2014 United Nations report noted. And government officials have continued to harass LGBT groups, including by alleging that organizing around homosexuality is illegal in the country. Furthermore, while laws are progressive, discrimination is wide spread, especially within families, where marriage between a man and a woman and the bearing of children are expected of young Nepalese. Kathmandu, Nepal. 06.11.18. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Boby Tamang/


“I realised that I was a transgender when I was 13 years old. I have not studied a lot. And I studied up to third grade in my village. At the age of 13 I ran and came to Kathmandu.”

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wlii-c-180910-Iran-Ershiya

Ershiya/


“I found out my true orientation it wasn’t hard for me to accept myself, but when I told it to my sister she said: I wished you chose an easier life.”

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Tyfane, a transgender woman, talks about growing up: “I lived my entire childhood listening to offensive words from my parents, friends, classmates, neighbors…”. Tyfane works as a peer health educator teaching safe sex. She knows that transgender women are in a high risk population for contracting HIV, especially those who do sex work, however, to survive she also has sex for money: “In order to survive, I would not say that I do sex work. But there are ... certain opportunities which appear that ... take it to an extreme. If I'm broke indeed, I’ll do the sex work. But my routine is not about sex work.” Maputo, Mozambique. 21 February, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Tyfane/


“I lived my entire childhood listening to offensive words from my parents, friends, classmates, neighbours, etc. But I never got carried away by those words, because I did not ask to be born like this.”

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A posed portrait of Sudi from Rwanda, who was born HIV positive, to a HIV positive mother. He hid being gay for 24 years, but after coming out, was forced to leave home and is now in Kakuma Refugee camp. “People used to point to me, I cannot fetch water. That why I come to hide here, myself, the best way that isn't people who doesn't know me, who doesn't know my status, who doesn't know that I'm LGBTI, who doesn't know that I'm infected by HIV. I live like someone who doesn't have a home. To be a refugee is something that make me first to be pain. We used to face a lot of issues in camp. Today I breathe, tomorrow I cannot breathe. That is the way we live.” Sudi is choosing to be open about his HIV status hoping to reduce the stigma others with HIV/AIDS feel. “I told those people who have hormones like me, to be open, who have infected of HIV, to be open. To have HIV doesn't mean that you can die. I live until now. I go to things, use your medicine, and don't think a lot.” Sudi believes that a community should support each other: “This is a message I pass to your friends: if you know your friend have a problem, don't run from him. You two are like that. Stay with him. Give him hope. All of the world is not in Kakuma only. Every place where there's LGBTI like us, help them.” Kenya, October 2017. 
The Kakuma Refugee Camp is located in north western Kenya and houses more than 180,000 refugees. The camp is located in a semi-arid desert with temperatures over 30C. LGBTQI+ refugees are a minority; approximately 190 total with 120 Ugandans, and are often targeted by the wider refugee community. The camp, run by the UNHCR, provides food and medical support, however rations meant for a month typically last just two weeks. Treatment facilities are located miles away, and transport is not provided, posing a challenge for those with HIV / AIDS requiring life-saving medication.
While in many places, there has been great progress in recent years in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTQI+) rights, including an increasing recognition of same-sex marriage, nearly 2.8 billion people live in countries where identifying as LGBTI is subject to rampant discrimination, criminalization, and even death. Same-sex acts are illegal in 76 countries; in some countries, this can result in being sentenced to death. Behind these statistics, there individuals with unique, often harrowing stories. Where Love Is Illegal was created to tell those stories. 
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change.

Sudi/


“This is a message I pass to your friends: if you know your friend have a problem, don’t run from him. You two are like that. Stay with him. Give him hope. All of the world is not in Kakuma only. Every place where there’s LGBTI like us, help them.”

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38 year old Angel (not real name) is a transgender woman and a performer. Because of her gender identity and sexuality, she says she has been kicked out of home, lost jobs, been the target of hate. “I was naturally born feminine and my parents and family loved me so much. But, when they realized my sexuality, everyone started to see me as evil. I was taken to churches, special places, because they felt I was possessed.” “People judge us a lot cause when you pass, there's this kind of eye, someone might look at you in a certain way, that you might even want to dive under the ground. People judge us so much that you really sit down and think, do these people see us as humans? Do they see us as humans or do they see us as animals?” Ghana. 09 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Angel/


“I was taken to churches, special places, because they felt I was possessed. As I became more feminine, society started frowning at me. I was called all sorts of names, lynched, hooted at, and that made me felt really uncomfortable. At a point, I wanted to commit suicide.“

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wlii-c-181028-brazil-kayo

Kayo/


“i was praying and asking why i born gay, i hated think that i was gay, i didn’t wanna be gay”

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wlii-c-181024-newzealand-benjamin

Benjamin/


“WHEN I WAS BARELY 7 YEARS OLD AND SOMEONE CALLED ME GAY FOR THE TIME BECAUSE I SOUNDED LIKE A GIRL. IT WAS FROM THEN ONWARDS A FREQUENT QUESTION AND IT WAS ALWAYS IN THE BACK OF MY MIND, TRYING TO CHANGE MY BEHAVIOUR SO PEOPLE THOUGH I WAS STRAIGHT. IT NEVER WORKED TO MY FRUSTRATION.”

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wlii-c-180714-Peru-Janet

Janet/


“Saturday, December 2nd. Mom I like girls And after that it all went cursing and yelling me to suicide. She (as a mom) doesnt deserve that. She told me to make her a favour and kill myself. I went familyless from that moment. She called my girlfriend and told her that she better stop calling … READ THE STORY

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A posed portrait of Gregory (not his real name), a Ugandan refugee living in the Kakuma refugee camp in north western Kenya. Gregory was forced to leave his community after he and his partner were witnessed having sex. “My uncle was angry about it. He decided to abduct me, with the help of some of my family members. They took me to a mud house in the village for two days. I was screaming for help, mercy. Cattle keeper heard me, broke in to rescue me. I ran away the same evening. I had no other option, but to cross into Kenya. Gregory was tested HIV positive in Kenya and has found that accessing medication and adequate diet is a challenge as a refugee unable to work and obtain funds to maintain his health. “Due to poor feeding, the medication makes you dizzy. You wake up weak, feeling dizzy. You feel your head is spinning around, because last night, you didn't eat, because the doctors tell you should swallow the ARVs when you're going to sleep. Then, in the morning, you take suppository, so you wake up with the dizziness of the ARVs.  And you take that when you don't even know what you're going to eat. You have to stay in the house. The house is hot. You're dehydrating. So, makes you weak in that way. “If you go to the clinic to pick up some medication, you walk in the scorching sun, because this is a semi desert. The degrees are very high. 40+. You walk an hour. You dehydrate. Then, an hour back to where you live. So, it's kind of frustrating. Transportation, poor feeding, the environment. Everything is challenging. He says the conditions are made even more challenging because of the stigma of being HIV positive. “People discriminate people who are HIV positive, and mostly, in Africa, they see that as a curse. They even call it bad luck.” Kenya, October 2017. 
The Kakuma Refugee Camp is located in north western Kenya and houses more than 180,000 refugees. The camp is located in a semi-arid desert with temperatures over 30C. LGBTQI+ refugees are a minority; approximately 190 total with 120 Ugandans, and are often targeted by the wider refugee community. The camp, run by the UNHCR, provides food and medical support, however rations meant for a month typically last just two weeks. Treatment facilities are located miles away, and transport is not provided, posing a challenge for those with HIV / AIDS requiring life-saving medication.
While in many places, there has been great progress in recent years in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTQI+) rights, including an increasing recognition of same-sex marriage, nearly 2.8 billion people live in countries where identifying as LGBTI is subject to rampant discrimination, criminalization, and even death. Same-sex acts are illegal in 76 countries; in some countries, this can result in being sentenced to death. Behind these statistics, there individuals with unique, often harrowing stories. Where Love Is Illegal was created to tell those stories. 
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change.

Gregory/


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

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wlii-c-180909-Bahrain-GayBHR

GayBHR/


“I’m 30 years old and my life is basically over i have no friends, i am being opressed by my family”

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wlii-c-181028-brazil-marilia

Marilia/


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

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Several years ago, after a HIV positive friend died, Anthony (not real name), a 28 year old bisexual man, decided to get tested for the virus. Despite understanding he is part of a high risk population he doesn’t want to risk the stigma associated with a HIV positive diagnosis: “if it happens to be that I'm positive then it's gonna be a double blow on me so I just decided I don't wanna take it.” The double blow he refers to is being gay and HIV positive. Talking about why he took the test in the first place he says: “I was young, wild, and free. I was just having fun. To me, it was fun. But when I realized things were going wrong and people were dying here and there, I lost a friend, then I decided, no, I needed to go take the test. So after that, I've been very careful when it comes to HIV and sex... if I was, if I got tested and was HIV positive, I know to think that I'm gonna lose a few friends because most gay people have this perception that if your friend is positive then the chances of you being positive is high and everybody points hands at you just because you're friends with him. So, definitely I'm gonna lose a few friends if I was positive.” Ghana. 09 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Anthony/


“People called me names ’cause I had little female tendencies and that mostly discouraged me and made me feel I was less of a human.”

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wlii-c-181107-UK-Andy

Andy/


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

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wlii-c-180729-indonesia-shei

Shei/


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

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Sydney/


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

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A posed portrait of Milli, 35. In April 2010 Milli went to stay with a friend. While waiting for her friend to return home, she went to the landlord and asked for a light for her cigarette. He dragged her into his shack and said: “You think you are man! I’m going to make you pregnant and I’m going to kill you”. He strangled Lilli with a piece of wire until she lost consciousness “and then he did what he was doing, for hours!”, “I tried screaming”. Neighbours eventually kicked in the window and held the man until the police arrived. The police arrested him but he was released on ZAR 400 bail (around US$40). He didn’t appear in court for his hearing. He was on the run. Free Gender, a black lesbian organisation working to end homophobia, based in the township of Khaylitsha, Cape Town searched for the rapist posting pamphlets. It took a year to find him. When asked why the police didn’t search for him, Milli says: “they don’t have time to listen to you when you go to them, when it comes to homosexuals, they take their time”. “I just thank God that I am alive. I thought I was going to die.” South Africa. November 2014.  While many countries around the world are legally recognizing same-sex relationships, individuals in nearly 80 countries face criminal sanctions for private consensual relations with another adult of the same sex. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression is even more widespread. Africa is becoming the worst continent for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Inter-sex (LGBTQI) individuals. More than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts. In some, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Nigeria new homophobic laws introduced in 2013 led to dramatic increase in attacks. Under Sharia Law, homosexuality is punishable by death, up to 50 lashes and six months in prison for woman; for men elsewhere, up to 14 years in prison. Same sex acts are ille

Milli/


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

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

Shiela/


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

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Arash/


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

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A posed portrait of Kuteesa (left) and Ernest (right) who met at Kakuma refugee camp in north western Kenya. Kuteesa identifies as a transgender woman and Ernest as gay. Both fled their home country of Uganda seeking sanctuary in Kenya as refugees. They found neither safety, nor hope. Even the refugee camp, run by the UN is not safe. They suffer death threats and discrimination from others in the camp. Moving around is not safe as Kuteesa explains: “Whenever we try to fetch water, there are so many people outside there who are not gays because we lack piped water in our home, even going out to buy some food; the shops don’t sell to us.  They refuse to sell to you because you are gay and that is why we no longer purchase some things.” Even seeking health care is not safe. Kuteesa says “We are so far from the hospitals and so can’t walk there because if you do, you can be stoned to death. Even if you are sick, you have to just suffer in case you fail to get someone to escort you to the hospitals… Everywhere you go, people ridicule you, and we are so misery now.” Both hope to be resettled: “I would like for us to have enough freedom to live freely without having to hide our feelings in public just like it is in some foreign countries” says Kuteesa.
Kenya, October 2017. 
The Kakuma Refugee Camp is located in north western Kenya and houses more than 180,000 refugees. The camp is located in a semi-arid desert with temperatures over 30C. LGBTQI+ refugees are a minority; approximately 190 total with 120 Ugandans, and are often targeted by the wider refugee community. The camp, run by the UNHCR, provides food and medical support, however rations meant for a month typically last just two weeks. Treatment facilities are located miles away, and transport is not provided, posing a challenge for those with HIV / AIDS requiring life-saving medication.
While in many places, there has been great progress in recent years in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTQI+) rights, including an increasing recognition of same-sex marriage, nearly 2.8 billion people live in countries where identifying as LGBTI is subject to rampant discrimination, criminalization, and even death. Same-sex acts are illegal in 76 countries; in some countries, this can result in being sentenced to death. Behind these statistics, there individuals with unique, often harrowing stories. Where Love Is Illegal was created to tell those stories. 
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Kuteesa & Ernest/


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

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

AD & AJ/


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

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Anthony G/


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

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David Rose/


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

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

Pearl/


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

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

Pepetsa/


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

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

Alex/


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

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Lidia/


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

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Prince (not real name) is a 32 year old HIV positive bisexual man. Prince got tested for HIV after he learned that his friend, who had AIDS, died. Prince has been on ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) for the last four years. “My gay friends doesn't know I'm HIV because of here in Ghana here, we like talking. That's why I didn't share to anyone.” Ghana. 10 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Prince/


“It’s not easy in Ghana here. You say you are a gay. It’s not easy at all.”

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

Aisha/


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

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He/


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

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23 year old Biggy (not his real name) is a gay man and a student studying political science. One night, when leaving a party he and some friends were confronted by a group of men and Biggy was questioned about the way he presented himself: “They say that ‘why are you behaving as if you are the others, opposite, female.’ And then, ‘You are guys, why are you doing that? Why don't you go and play football and all that things.’” When they didn’t respond the men attacked them. “They starting using weapons to hit us, some of the guys were having wood, and all that weapons, which can cause harm to us. But, as we were shouting, because they were beating us, a woman came to our aid. And then the woman rescued us.” Talking about why he can’t be open about his sexuality he says: “So, coming out boldly would be a problem and, even if you do, you must have the courage and do that. You either lose some of your friends, you work and people pointing hands at you and call you a sort of name. And you can even lose your job in Ghana.” Ghana, Accra. 08 March, 2018. Photo Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Biggy/


“Here your life in Ghana isn’t something easy, one can’t boldly come out, and say that he’s one, simply because it is not legalized in Ghana, and for that matter society frown on it in Ghana.”

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Sebastian/


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

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

Gilberto/


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

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

Daniel/


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

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Hazard/


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

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