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 name is Nakitende Aisha. I became a lesbian at 13 years old. I started in my primary seven. My family members became so angry when they found out. Yet I wasn’t the only lesbian in my family. We were two. I and my aunt called, I won’t say her name. She was also a lesbian. Our family despised us. 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. Because my family wanted to kill me. Plus my family and all the villagers were looking for me. Even Kenyans don’t want me to be here. Even while in the neighbourhood, they say we are lesbians and Basoga so they do not want us here. All the neighbours know we are lesbians so we don’t feel at peace.”

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