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Rwandan LGBT Community Steps Out of Shadows

  • Hamada Elrasam
Members of the LGBT community in Rwanda are coming out of the shadows after dark days of attacks and harassment early this year. In February, a Rwandan TV journalist proposed marriage to her same-sex partner and they publicly prepared for a wedding abroad. Their engagement sparked anger in the deeply conservative country, and many LGBT people fled Rwanda or went into hiding. Hamada Elrasam talked with Rwandan LGBT community members about how they survived that dangerous time, and the challenges they still face.
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The Rwandan government recognizes the LGBT community's right to live openly and safely, but it does not allow for gay marriage. However, activists say the majority of Rwandans still lack education regarding the group in Kigali, Rwanda, April 11, 2017. (Photo: H. Elrasam/VOA)  
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The Rwandan government recognizes the LGBT community's right to live openly and safely, but it does not allow for gay marriage. However, activists say the majority of Rwandans still lack education regarding the group in Kigali, Rwanda, April 11, 2017. (Photo: H. Elrasam/VOA)
 

Carter, transgender man, 28, is a program officer at Rights For All, an association that advocates for the LGBT community. "Recently when those two lesbians came out as married, it was a big debate and people didn't understand," Carter said. "They wondered, 'Who are they? Who is who in the relationship?' We started to get harassed again, so we stopped going out in the street of Kigali, we were scared. The medias never made it easy but the outcome was amazing, the society that didn't understand who lesbians were got to actually know that they exist! in Kigali, Rwanda, April 21, 2017. (Photo: H. Elrasam/VOA)  
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Carter, transgender man, 28, is a program officer at Rights For All, an association that advocates for the LGBT community. "Recently when those two lesbians came out as married, it was a big debate and people didn't understand," Carter said. "They wondered, 'Who are they? Who is who in the relationship?' We started to get harassed again, so we stopped going out in the street of Kigali, we were scared. The medias never made it easy but the outcome was amazing, the society that didn't understand who lesbians were got to actually know that they exist! in Kigali, Rwanda, April 21, 2017. (Photo: H. Elrasam/VOA)
 

Divin, a 30-year-old Rwandan gay man, says, "There was that debate in the media about the right for gay people to exist in Rwanda and I was attacked the same day. I don't think the attack was because [of] my sexual orientation, it was about stealing my money. But I left for Uganda immediately." Divin is pictured in Kigal, Rwanda, April 20, 2017. (Photo: H. Elrasam/VOA)  
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Divin, a 30-year-old Rwandan gay man, says, "There was that debate in the media about the right for gay people to exist in Rwanda and I was attacked the same day. I don't think the attack was because [of] my sexual orientation, it was about stealing my money. But I left for Uganda immediately." Divin is pictured in Kigal, Rwanda, April 20, 2017. (Photo: H. Elrasam/VOA)
 

"We were partially recognized by the Rwandan government, which made me and my community feel safer," said Madoxy, a Rwandan LGBT activist and a transgender man. "But what is more painful is the social rejection. And we still don't have enough unity even within the LGBT community here. Gay men consider themselves as a separate group from transgender. We have (HAD) enough ethnic division here, and any divisions based on sexual orientation makes life harder."  ( Photo: H. Elrasam/VOA)
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"We were partially recognized by the Rwandan government, which made me and my community feel safer," said Madoxy, a Rwandan LGBT activist and a transgender man. "But what is more painful is the social rejection. And we still don't have enough unity even within the LGBT community here. Gay men consider themselves as a separate group from transgender. We have (HAD) enough ethnic division here, and any divisions based on sexual orientation makes life harder."  ( Photo: H. Elrasam/VOA)

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