wlii-c-190809-Kenya-Francheska01

Francheska/


“Despite all this I am smiling through the rain for I know there are so many LGBTQ young folks who look at me as their source of strength and inspiration.”

READ THE STORY
A posed portrait of Joseph (not his real name), a Somali living in Kakuma refugee camp in north western Kenya since 2004. Joseph was ostracized by her family for “behaving like a girl.” Joseph identifies as both gay and a trans woman. Homophobia in Kakuma refugee camp is a great source of insecurity says Joseph. Speaking of two of her gay friends she says “One of them has been killed and another friend has been tortured and has escaped the place.” The constant persecution and insecurity weighs heavily on her, as does her positive HIV status: “I had the HIV for two years and I never talk to anyone about the disease… HIV people are not welcome in the camp, those are reasons why I was hiding my disease from others for long.” Talking about her state of mind she says: “I am expecting nothing from this world , there is no cure for this disease and it killed many people. At the moment I am just waiting for death. I have the disease. I could not go to the hospital for treatment. I was persecuted by everywhere even inside the hospital. The local government and NGOs could not help me but I am still alive - I still cannot believe that I am still alive with the disease.” 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

Joseph/


“one night while I was with my friend lying down together my brother saw us and told the elderly of the town that those two boys are having sex. The Elderly people of the town denounce me and told me that I am a bad person to the community and we do not want this happen to our kids in our town.”

READ THE STORY
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/

,


“Then our family got to know about it through the social media and newspapers. So we were ashamed in the community”

READ THE STORY
wlii-c-190213-USA-Jethro

Jethro/

, ,


“I put on a mask (Jethro), I acted like I didn’t care for anyone or anything. The mask that allows me to hide my identity, the mask that makes my parents think that I’ve changed. The mask that got me my freedom”.

READ THE STORY
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.”

READ THE STORY
A posed portrait of Lucky (right) and John (left), Ugandan refugees living in Nairobi. Lucky and John lived together in Uganda - until John’s parents found out they were in a relationship and attacked Lucky.They hid with a friend and saved enough money to flee to Kenya. They were registered separately as refugees and they were able to find some sanctuary in Nature Network. “The life now in Nairobi, because of the Nature Network we have, the little money we are getting, it help me someway, somehow, and the Nature Network come in, they do pay us rent here, they buy us food.” Faith has been an important part of keeping them strong through their trials.
“If it wasn't God's help, we would have already died, because I remember the time when the parents came to attack him [Lucky], and then, they wanted to kill him, if it was not God, he would have already died, but God knows us, God loves us, so he managed to protect us all the way from Uganda up to here, we are together.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
Stigma, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation means that access to HIV services is yet another challenge for this community. As a result, LGBTQI+ people in Africa are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV, with prevalence rates in many countries exceeding 10-20%. To respond to this, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) built a quick, nimble, and easily accessible $10m fund which can get money to the most effective grassroots organisations doing some of the most important work among the most-at-risk LGBT groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.  A Rapid Response mechanism administered by the International HIV / AIDS Alliance quickly disburses smaller sums to respond to emergencies where LGBT people are in jeopardy. The fund is active in 30 countries and Nature Network in Kenya is one project that has received the fund.  
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Lucky & John/


When they attacked him, he managed to escape. He ran away, and then, he told me, ‘Don’t come back home, because even me have left home, cause your parents went there to kill me. They realized that we are gays.’

READ THE STORY
A posed portrait of Tasha, 21, a Ugandan refugee living in Nairobi, and supported by Nature Network. Tasha is a transgender woman who presents as female, because of this she is often targeted and she does not often leave the apartment where she lives. “As a transgender, I’m always indoors. Me, I never move out. I’ve never enjoyed my life here in Nairobi, that is what I have to tell you. Because from Monday to Monday, from January to January I’m always indoors. I only move out if it’s really important, very-very important, because I’m scared for my life. Being in the same place, same house, same room from today, tomorrow, the other day, the other day, daily. It really bothers our mind and then you are all there. You feel like you’re being tortured in a way, so you’re not free to do what you want. At times you feel like you wanna take poison.” Tasha explains how many Ugandan refugees end up in sex work to be able to afford food and shelter. “I personally, I’m not doing sex work, but most of the people, most of my refugee friends are engaging into sex work. Because they want to earn a living. And most of the people that are engaging into sex work are getting different diseases like HIV/AIDS.” “We’ve had people, refugees, in fact here, Ugandan refugees dying of AIDS because they have gotten it here in Nairobi. And most of the time when they get these diseases because as for refugees we cannot afford the hospitals and stuff. They end up getting so sick, very ill and we cannot treat them. At the end of the day they end up losing their life because of practicing sex work. They never want to disclose it to anyone, because they are scared of discrimination.” “I don’t wanna lose my life. I’m still young. I still have a future out there. I wanna do something for myself. I wanna stand out for other LGBTI people.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
Stigma, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation means that access to HIV services is yet another challenge for this community. As a result, LGBTQI+ people in Africa are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV, with prevalence rates in many countries exceeding 10-20%. To respond to this, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) built a quick, nimble, and easily accessible $10m fund which can get money to the most effective grassroots organisations doing some of the most important work among the most-at-risk LGBT groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.  A Rapid Response mechanism administered by the International HIV / AIDS Alliance quickly disburses smaller sums to respond to emergencies where LGBT people are in jeopardy. The fund is active in 30 countries and Nature Network in Kenya is one project that has received the fund.  
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Tasha/


“During my teenage I was expelled from school, because I was gotten exchanging letters with my boyfriend. That’s when my parents disowned me and put police to hunt me down. When I got to know about it I had to flee Uganda, because my life was in danger.”

READ THE STORY
Vanessa

Vanessa/


“I came out to my family last Year January and they did not take it like I thought they would mum was violent to me even though I thought she was the one who would be on my side”

READ THE STORY