A posed portrait of Lizzie Venfolo. In July 2012, a man came in to the house of 22 year old Pumeza Nkolonzi’s grandmother, where Pumeza lived. He fired four shots, one hit the wall one hit Pumeza in the chest, one in the arm. As Pumeza stumbled backwards in her bedroom she shouted at the man “what have I done to you?” and then the fatal shot hit her in the forehead. In the house at the time was her grandmother, Lizzie Venfolo and five year old cousin Nolufefe Venfolo. Pumeza had been receiving threats of violence against her. Family, friends, activists, and the police all say she was killed because she was a lesbian. No one was ever convicted of the crime. The family feel the police have ignored the case because Pumeza was a lesbian. 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


“Pumeza came in the house playing with her cell phone, she then came into the room. As she went over the bed a bullet hit the bedroom wall, and we were shocked wondering what that came from. As we were looking at the bedroom door, a man who has his face covered came with a gun and started to shoot at Pumeza. Three times. The first bullet was on her chest, the second one went through the chest to the arm while that was happening, she kept asking this man « What did I do to you, why are you shooting me. » He continued and shot her on the forhead that third bullet threw my beloved daughter to the ground. And she passed on at the same moment. It took me some time to be on my normal thinking. I was concious, drained, and numb. I could’t think of anything my mind was not working. I even went for councelling but it never helped, I used to pray and pray but sometimes stop in the middle of the prayer that’s how drained I was, I found a way to heal and accept by myself.”

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