On the Run

VICE Magazine

Jake Naughton

The plight of Kenya’s LGBT Refugees

 “God has a book of life,” Mugisa told his worshipers. “He remembers your name. But to be written in this book you need to do good.” Mugisa turned to his congregants. “Mulondo, Lujja, Kasule, Nansamba: You want to be able to say, ‘God, I served you when I was in Kakuma camp.’ You want to be able to say, ‘I served you in Uganda. Remember me. This is what I have done, remember me.'”

Mugisa glanced around his congregation of LGBT worshipers, catching the eyes of a few of them. Unable to ignore the trepidation on their faces, he comforted them. “Trust me—one day we will be out of this place.”

Jake Naughton

Honorable Mention (runner-up), 2016 Immigration Journalism Award, The French-American Foundation; Official Nomination, “Outstanding Magazine Article,” 2017 GLAAD Media Awards; Shortlist, 2017 One World Media Print Award.

Read: VICE Magazine

Will LGBT Ugandans Ever Be Free?

Playboy

Photos by Jake Naughton

Inside the Fight for a Queer Country

Just a few years ago, Kampala was a nightmare for LGBTQ Ugandans, some of whom were beaten and stripped in the streets, chased by angry mobs or jailed.

But you wouldn’t guess that from the relaxed atmosphere at Cayenne on Kampala’s north side. Few people seem to notice the transgender woman dancing by the pool, and if they do, they don’t seem to care.

Javan is tall and has a face that’s hard to read, punctuated by a small stud on the left side of her nose. She moves her elbows and shoulders like most men but her hips like most women. She belongs to a generation of queer Ugandans barely old enough to remember when the antigay fever first erupted here, in 2009.

Read: Playboy

Waiting to Walk … Out.

HUCK Magazine

Photos by Jake Naughton

Kenya has become a safe haven for scores of refugees fleeing war and famine in neighboring countries. But that sense of sanctuary doesn’t always stand true if you’re young, vulnerable and gay. In secret hideaways and temporary homes, LGBT refugees are being forced yet again to hide their true selves.

Read: Huck Magazine, The Outsider Issue

Haiti farmers eager to receive compensation after ‘groundbreaking’ land deal

Reuters PLACE

Allison Shelley

A decade after an earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, farmers in Haiti are waiting to receive compensation for their land used to build an industrial park. Located in Haiti’s northern region, the $300 million Caracol Industrial Park opened in 2012 and now employs approximately 15,000 people, most of whom work in clothing factories there.

In 2018, farmers who had been evicted from their land in 2011 struck a rare deal with the IDB to provide Caracol’s 100 most vulnerable families with new, titled land.

Read the full story at the Thompson Reuters Foundation (PLACE). Reporting supported by The Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

THIS IS HOW THE HEART BEATS

Books

THIS IS HOW THE HEART BEATS: LGBTQ EAST AFRICA 

BY JAKE NAUGHTON AND JACOB KUSHNER 

ORDER NOW: IndieBound / Amazon / Barnes&Noble

This book is a celebration of diversity, of resilience, of love, of standing up to one’s oppressors, and overcoming. This is the LGBTQ community of Uganda. This is my community. This is our reality.” — activist Ruth Muganzi.

Same-sex relations are illegal in thirty-two African countries. Most, including Kenya and Uganda, were former British colonies, and the legacy of the colonialists’ anti-gay legislation can be felt to this day.

This Is How the Heart Beats (The New PressFebruary 2020) by acclaimed photographer Jake Naughton and noted writer Jacob Kushner is a powerful and intimate series of portraits of LGBTQ Ugandans, Kenyans, and other East Africans. Some have decided to stay in their homeland despite the discrimination and abuse they face there. Others have fled as refugees, applying for resettlement to a part of the world where they will not be persecuted for who they love.

In a world with more refugees than ever before, and at a time when prejudice toward refugees runs high across the globe, this work illuminates the stakes for one group at the center of it all.

The book includes supporting texts by Jacob Kushner, a foreword by Ugandan queer activist Ruth Muganzi, and an essay by Cynthia Ndikumana, a transgender activist from Burundi. 

Book Details: The New Press, Paperback. ISBN: 978-1-62097-488-98 x 10, 152 pages. List Price: $21.99 (US). Media Contact: Andrea Smith / Andrea Smith Public Relations: +1 646-220-5950 Email: andreasmith202@gmail.com

ORDER NOW: IndieBound / Amazon / Barnes&Noble

Kenya Could be the Next Country to Strike Down a Colonial-Era Law Against Homosexuality

WNYC The Takeaway

Jake Naughton

Cynthia is a lesbian activist and refugee from Burundi. She fled to Kenya after authorities found out she was gay. There she lived in hiding while hoping for resettlement abroad. Photo: Jake Naughton

The law in question is a colonial-era ban on “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” is part of the penal code in dozens of former British colonies. Many of them are former British colonies with the exact same law on the books. 

The activists who brought the case contend that the law is used to exploit and extort, and that it is used to justify discrimination against LGBT people. Opponents have said they will consider alternative measures if the law is overturned, including, potentially a referendum. 

Joining The Takeaway to explain what’s at stake is Jacob Kushner, a freelance journalist based in East Africa. Listen to the full interview at WNYC’s The Takeaway. Produced by Beenish Ahmed.

Gay-Rights Activists Hoping for a Legal Victory in Kenya

The New Yorker

Simon Maina

Kenya’s penal code punishes acts “against the order of nature”—usually interpreted as sex between men—with up to fourteen years in prison. It also prescribes up to five years in prison for “gross indecency with another male person,” which is often interpreted as other, undefined sexual acts between men. Worldwide, at least seventy nations—more than a third of all countries—still outlaw homosexuality, and it remains illegal in more than thirty of the fifty-four African countries.

L.G.B.T. activists in Kenya are taking on these laws. Changing a society’s values would take generations, they reasoned, but striking down an unjust law could be accomplished in just a few years. Read: The New Yorker

The rural Ugandan town where gay people are coming out

Christian Science Monitor

Jake Naughton

A surprising turnaround for LGBT Africans in a most unlikely place

Since 2009, Uganda has made international headlines as one of the world’s most dangerous places to be gay or transgender. That year legislators and religious leaders first championed an anti-homosexuality bill to criminalize gay sex and marriages, even if they take place abroad, and obligate Ugandans to report them. “Aggravated homosexuality,” including repeated offenses, was to be punished with death – later amended to life in prison.

And yet, today many rural LGBT Ugandans are finding ways to fit into traditional family and community structures – and without always having to entirely hide their identities, either. Rural Ugandan towns might be the last place you’d expect to see LGBT acceptance. Cities are often assumed to be more tolerant, where strength in numbers allows people to advocate together.

But in places like Mbale, where neighbors all know one another, prejudice is often no match for personal relationships. By adapting to, rather than rebuking, traditions and societal norms, some rural LGBT Africans are achieving a level of tolerance that just a few years ago seemed unthinkable.

Read: The Christian Science Monitor

Uganda Attempts to Shut Down Controversial Silicon Valley-Funded Schools

Columbia Global Reports

School children in Malindi, Kenya, February 2018. Photo by Ian Ingalula, Creative Commons.

Bridge International Academies was conceived in 2007 to be the McDonald’s of global education, promising to better educate poor students using Nooks and standardized curriculums for as little as $6 to $7 a month. Using tablets and standardized curriculums in each country, Bridge operates more than 520 schools, teaching some 100,000 students in Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and India. It’s currently expanding in Asia with dreams of reaching an ambitious 10 million students across the world by 2025.

But Some African parents may be uneasy about the idea of a western-conceived company disrupting something they hold so dear: control over their children’s education. Bridge threatens to globalize—or perhaps, to westernize—the sector on which many Africans bank their families’ futures.

Read the full story at Columbia Global Reports.

In Kenya’s Baringo county, police raid, burn and murder

Al Jazeera

A bullet cartridge for a G3-type self-loading rifle is one of 14 found near the blood-stained dirt where the body of Ekurio Mugeluk first lay [Will Swanson/Al Jazeera]

On the trail of police who stormed a village, burned down homes, stole livestock – and murdered an 80-year-old man.

One May afternoon along a dirt road in a remote swath of Kenya’s Baringo County lay the remains of an elderly man. Wild animals had eaten his flesh, torn off some of his limbs, and dragged his body – now mostly bones. A purple shawl and a yellow football jersey clung to the skeleton.

Witnesses say nine days earlier, several truckloads of police officers raided their village, burning their huts and stealing their goats. Officers then threw rocks at the elderly man who had tried to escape. They loaded him onto a truck, dumped him by the side of the road and shot him.

Reporting by Al Jazeera corroborates witnesses’ accounts that on May 9, Kenyan police murdered 80-year-old Ekurio Mugeluk and left his body to the wild.

Read the full investigation at Al Jazeera. Reported with Anthony Langat and Will Swanson.