“We pray for the Ukrainians and we pray for Russians who don’t want and don’t need that war. Love wins!”

A posed portrait of 25 year old bisexual Olga Bakhaeva who resigned from her position as a high school history teacher in Magnitogorsk city when the director of the school found out her sexuality. Her director, under pressure from the Education Board, told her not to support LGBT and other groups in opposition to the government. The environment at the school became hostile when Olga continued to be active on social media. She felt humiliated by the director of the school when she outed her in front of other teachers. Privately, afterwards, she was told by the director of the school “It would be better if you found another job”. Olga says that the director in fact was not concerned with her sexuality but was worried about the reputation of the school should she not act. In Russia, laws have been made, purportedly, to protect children from LGBT “propaganda.” State schools are very pro-government. According to several LGBT teachers, even if there is no law stating LGBT teachers cannot be employed, it is, in reality, not possible to be openly LGBT and a teacher in Russian Government schools or Universities. After Olga resigned her activism increased. Now she is a strong supporter of LGBT non-governmental organization ComingOut SPB and bi-sexual non-governmental organization LuBi. St Petersburg, Russia. 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


“I had a conversation with the director of the school, during which it was made clear to me that I must accept her conditions: disappear from all LGBT groups; stop putting any similar information on my wall; and not participate in discussions on the subject… That is to say, ‘make a choice, what is more important to you – being a teacher, or your activist views.’ Just the chance to accept these conditions put me into a two day depression of looking at myself in the mirror with constant abhorrence. In essence, it meant the betrayal of myself, and everything I believe in.”



“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…”



“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.’“



“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.”



“Going to the police is not beneficial. They do nothing. And the anger is so much. I’m sick of always being the victim.”



“We need to face the future, if so, it can’t be anything other than bright and cheery. Everything is in our hands.”