Last Thursday, The Global Post told the heartbreaking story of two Ugandan men who, in an effort to escape anti-gay persecution in their home country, have fled to Kenya and are living in a refugee camp. The two men, Alex and Michael (their real names could not be used), are a couple of six years and faced unprecedented violence and rejection after being outed in their hometown last year. They were harassed, their families disowned them, and the restaurant they opened together was burned to the ground. After a trip to the supermarket, the two found their car had been stoned and set on fire. Yet even after leaving Uganda, they are still not safe from discrimination. Kenya also has anti-gay laws, and thus does not offer asylum to lesbian and gay refugees, leaving Alex and Michael with an uncertain future. “We have been surviving,” Alex said of life in the Kenyan refugee camp. “But it feels like we’re going to be in the camp all our life, because even here in Kenya they won’t allow us, they can’t accept us.”
The threat of violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Uganda and other countries with anti-LGBT laws is very real. In January, Ugandan gay advocate David Kato was murdered in his apartment after a local newspaper published his name, photograph, and address, along with those of many other individuals believed to be gay. Alex and Michael have been told that their only option is resettlement in a Western country, but this presents a new set of obstacles. LGBT individuals seeking asylum in another country often need to provide proof of the violence committed against them, such as police reports and statements, which can be especially difficult for those living in countries where being LGBT is illegal. All of this is added to the strain resettlement puts on relations with family and friends, and the fact that of the more than 10 million refugees worldwide, only about 100,000 are resettled each year.
Unfortunately, stories like Alex and Michael’s are not uncommon. LGBT people around the world face extraordinary amounts of violence and discrimination, much of which is sanctioned by law. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted yesterday to a room full of international diplomats in Geneva, "Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. Being gay…is a human reality." GLAAD thanks The Global Post for highlighting Alex and Michael’s story, and encourages mainstream media to bring greater attention to the hardships faced by LGBT people living in countries where their lives are criminalized for being who they are.