A posed portrait of 23 year old Ugandans Ashiraf (left) & Kajjan (right) in Nairobi. Ashiraf identifies as a transgender woman and Kajjan as gay. While same sex marriage is not legal in Uganda, in 2015 the pair conducted a marriage ceremony in a hotel to celebrate their relationship. “We had happiness at the party” says Ashiraf, and then adds “and that was the day.” That was the day their new married life began, and also the day their lives changed for the worse. A friend took photos of the wedding and posted them on social media. Local newspapers got hold of the photos and published them. Two weeks later their neighbors recognized them in the newspaper and went to the police. They locked their door when they heard the mob with the police coming, and hid inside. They could hear them trying to enter and talking together: “They said a lot of stuff, that we are sons of evil, we need to go to hell, we shall kill them direct if we get them.” That night they packed their bags and left for Kenya. But life in Kenya was not what they had hoped. They struggled to be registered by the United Nations refugee agency, and struggled even more to find a place to settle down: “After three months in Kenya, our life was not good at all, as we kept on migrating from one place to another because Kenya is like Uganda they don’t allow us in here. We were beaten, abused, tortured on the way when we were moving,” says Ashiraf. “My boyfriend is HIV positive and I am negative but I have (high blood) pressure. Life is hard because we don’t have money to eat yet we have to take our medicine. The landlord is chasing us out of the house because we don’t have money. I tried to look for jobs but couldn’t get because I naturally look like a transgender. Whenever I go to look for jobs I am abused that I am a lady, sometimes beaten.” Kajjan reiterates the sentiments expressed by his wife: “Up to present time, we are still suffering because I am HIV positive though my boyfriend isn’t, we have nothing to eat, nor food.” 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

Ashiraf & Kajjan / ,

“I’m Ashiraf , 23 years old. I am Ugandan by nationality and I was staying in Kampala, Uganda before coming to Kenya and my boyfriend is called Kajjan. We are both refugees in Kenya and LGBTI. We have been in relationship for three years. We met at gay wedding in Uganda and the place was called Caravan Hotel. The event ended in a colourful way. We had happiness at the party. Our friends who came at the party took a lot of photos and videos and posted them on social media and we appeared in newspapers in Uganda. Then our family got to know about it through the social media and newspapers. So we were ashamed in the community and our families too because it is a taboo, they don’t allow it in our country in Uganda.”

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