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 /

“I came from Kismayo town (Somalia) in 1992. My mother died when I was one year old, and I was living with my aunty and my father for a long time, then we moved here in 2004 a place called Kakuma camp (Kenya), we settled down and lived here for a long time. I stayed there for a long time.

My mother died when I was one year old, and I was living with my aunty in Kakuma camp in the same house I was treated badly there, then one day I left this place and I went to Nairobi with my friend. I have heard that all my family got the visa process. When I have returned from Nairobi with my friend, I have received rejection from my family and told us (me and my friend) that we are behaving like girls.

Then I left all my family and stayed alone. Then 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. Life became difficult there, then I have moved to a place called Kakuma 3 and I have lived there in a while.

I have not received any help at all there only I was getting rejection from people, when I asked help from people everyone rejected me. I have separated from my friend and found two new friends. One of them has been killed and another friend has been tortured and has escaped the place.”

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