By: Ambrose Barigye
Arguably one of the most powerful platforms ever availed to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community, Where Love Is Illegal is here to make a mark like never before.
The website http://whereloveisillegal.com/ launched on June 4th 2015 carries stories of LGBTI persons from all over the world.
Where Love Is Illegal started as a photo based project by award-winning photographer and human rights activist Robin Hammond who for a decade has travelled through sub-Saharan Africa to document human rights and development issues.
During that time, he has been shocked to see the rise of intolerance towards LGBTI communities in some countries. In mid-2014 while on assignment for National Geographic Magazine in Nigeria, Robin learned of five young men in the north of the country who had been arrested and flogged in court because they were gay.
A few days later, he sat with the young men. They were homeless and in hiding, facing a frightened and uncertain future. A few weeks later, he made a second trip to see them. With the images he took of them and the stories he collected, he applied for the Getty Grant for Good, which provides funding to a designer and a photographer to work together to create a worthy awareness raising campaign. Designer Erin Joy joined him, and together, they were awarded US$20,000 to create Where Love Is Illegal.
Robin has traveled to Uganda, South Africa, and Cameroon to continue this project, but slowly realized that the issue expanded beyond Africa. LGBTI rights activist Harold Smith-Franzen helped Robin to continue the project in Malaysia, Russia and Lebanon. Others joined in the campaign along the way offering their support.
In each country Robin worked with grass-roots LGBTI groups fighting for the rights and welfare of a people persecuted for who they are.
The project has now officially started sharing the stories that Robin has collected over the years through the website. Many people wonder why an accomplished photojournalist would risk it all for such a venture and the answer is simple- to give a voice to the voiceless.
In Robin’s own words, “So this space was born, where people can share stories of discrimination and survival. It is a stand against discrimination, persecution, and violence, by a people who cannot and will not be anything other than the way they were born–a people who refuse to be silenced.”
With the community coming up with innovative ways to bridge the equality gap as well as make their experiences known, it is safe to say we stand strong and shall continue to fight for our rights.
The site also provides an opportunity to share one’s personal experience; by clicking on the Share Your Story button, you are taken through a verification process before you can submit your stories. Visit the site, tell your story in your own words and together, we shall make a difference.
Additional info sourced from whereloveisillegal.com