A posed portrait of Funeka Soldaat, 53, who heads Free Gender, a black lesbian organisation working to end homophobia, based in the township of Khaylitsha, Cape Town. When talking about the formation of the group Funeka says “We had to fight or die, we didn’t have a choice”. Funeka is a survivor of sexual violence targeted because of her sexuality, or, as termed by the media a “Victim of corrective rape”.  Her attacker was never convicted. She also survived being stabbed in the back multiple times. The attack landed her in intensive care unit: “when I hear of someone being stabbed, I still feel the pain”. 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 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

Funeka /

“It was on December 1st on world AIDS Day. I arrived in Lingelethu West Police Station to report a crime committed against me. I was told to wait for a transport and to be taken to hospital. The Van arrived and two policemen came into the Charge Office.

‘Will you drop this rape victim at the hospital?’ the policeman in the Charge office asked the other two police men.

I was taken in the back of the van and dropped at Sito B Hospital inside the hospital; there were a few people and nurses going up and down. I met the Senior nurse and told her what happened. The nurse shouted at me “This is not the police Station, why don’t you go there?” I explained to her that I had been to Lingelethu Police Station and I was dropped at the hospital by the police. She left me standing there. It was midnight. There was no transport, and the Police Station was 10 minutes away from the hospital. I walked to Sito B Police Station.

The police station was full. Most people were standing while others were sitting on chairs. There was this bad smell, blood and other people being drunk. There were few police to serve the people. Most of them were chatting to each other. I was standing, waiting to make a statement. At last I made my statement. I told the policeman what happened. He asked me: ‘Are you a woman?’ I told him: ‘Yes I am.’ He didn’t take my statement.

Instead he went to other police and I heard him laughing. The other police also came to ask me what had happened. I later found out they were making fun of me.

I went home, wearing one shoe, and feeling very devastated. I never believed that the institutions I trusted could do this to me. I arrived at home and went straight to bed without a statement being taken.
My heart was so sore”

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