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"Everyone who has found out that I am gay has tried to kill me"

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 17 May 2013 09:18 GMT
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Religious groups campaign against homosexuality in Kampala, Uganda, on Aug. 21, 2007. REUTERS/James Akena
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NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As a transgender man living as a woman, Barry has been repeatedly raped and beaten, his parents have been murdered and his children poisoned.

His problems started when he was a teenager, living in Burundi’s second largest city, Gitega.

His parents threatened to throw him out of their home because his effeminate manner was attracting gossip. They were scared for their own safety.

In Burundi, homosexuality is punishable by up to two years in jail, but the greater risk is of being attacked by ordinary citizens.

“In Burundi, if they know you are gay, they kill you. If they see you on the street, they stone you. They come and shoot you in the night,” Barry said, dressed in a diamante-studded black halter top with neatly braided hair that reaches his shoulders.

At the age of 17, he married a woman to protect himself. He and his wife had two children, now aged one and four.

Barry moved to the capital, Bujumbura, to work in a hair salon. When his boss found out that Barry had an affair with her husband, she reported it to police.

On his way home, he was met by a squad of police officers and a mob.

“The police said they would kill me,” he said.

Barry fled back to Gitega, where his wife, children and parents were living together.

HOUSE FULL OF BLOOD

Within hours, a mob forced its way into their home. Barry heard his parents screaming and climbed out of a back window with his wife and children. They hid in a maize field for several hours until the commotion died down.

“I went to the house and saw they [his parents] had been killed. The house was full of blood,” he said. “I went back and told my wife they had been killed and if we went back, we would also be killed.”

They crossed into Tanzania, heading for Kenya, the most liberal country in the region, although it also criminalises homosexuality with a 14-year jail term.

En route, Barry was gang raped by four men. He had gone into a hotel to buy food for his children, and a man forced him into a room.

“He said I talked like a woman,” Barry said. “He raped me. Then he called another and another and another.”

Upon reaching Kenya, the family was sent to Kakuma refugee camp on the country’s arid northern border.

Barry was admitted to the camp’s hospital, bleeding from his rectum and struggling to walk. He was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the camp, he was beaten by a mob of refugees and raped by a police officer.

“The policeman who raped me told me: ‘Kenya is not for you. We don’t want gays in Kenya.’ He said he would kill gays,” Barry said.

The United Nations sent him to Nairobi for his own safety.

CHILDREN POISONED

Despite his departure, his wife and children were still targeted.

“My children were given poison to kill them so that they did not become gay like me,” he said. “I hear my four year old was beaten until his lip split.”

The children survived and with their mother have been moved out of the main camp for their protection.

In Nairobi, Barry is still not safe. Over the last few months, he has been moved to several different safehouses. Neighbours threatened to torch one house and the landlord evicted him from another.

He sits locked in the house watching television, too scared to go out.

“If I go out, I will be killed,” he said.

His lawyer has not been able to start his application for resettlement overseas because of a Kenyan government directive ordering all urban refugees to move to refugee camps. It no longer offers services to refugees in cities.

This means that Barry has to return to Kakuma to get a government identity card, which is necessary for the process. He is waiting for the U.N. to arrange this.

“I just think about drinking poison because of all the problems I have,” he said.

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