Hanuabada village is one of few places that gay and transgender men can live in relative safety in Papua New Guinea, a country where homosexuality is illegal. About 30 gay men live in the village, a collection of traditional Papuan houses on stilts. Other PNG homosexuals have moved there from around the country. Gele gele (“gay men” in Tok Pisin, the local language) take on traditional female roles, such as cooking, washing clothes and participating with women in cultural rituals and traditional festivals.
In PNG, homosexuals are mostly accepted by people living in coastal areas, but they are targeted in areas populated by highlanders. Violence against them, such as biting and rape, is common and there have been a number of reported murders.
Members of the Hanuabada lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community say that if a gay person reports a rape to the police, he may be blamed instead of the perpetrator and arrested for practicing homosexuality, which is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. However, there have not been any official reports of LGBT people receiving long prison sentences over the past few years.
There are few nightclubs in Port Moresby that have “gay nights”, but for safety reasons, most gay people in Hanuabada prefer not to leave the village at night, organising parties near their houses instead. Such village parties are popular among local men, who approach gay men for sex. Sometimes teenage boys come to gay men in search of their first sexual experience, since they feel too shy to approach girls. PNG men don’t classify these encounters as homosexual in nature; for them, being gay is much more about a man playing a woman’s role in society.
Haraga, known as Speedy (35, left) and Kenny (38) in Kenny's house in Hanuabada village
Hanuabada is a traditional village of Motu People in Port Moresby and the only place in the PNG capital where local gay and transgender people feel safe. On the other side of Port Moresby Bay, gays are targeted and physical and sexual assaults are common
Speedy doing his laundry.
Sodomy is prohibited according to section 210 of the Papua New Guinea penal code and those caught engaging in anal sex can be jailed for up to 14 years. Despite this prohibition local gays, or ”gele gele” (Tok Pisin for gay men), play various female roles in society
Speedy and women from Hanuabada village dressed for the bride price ceremony. "When our clan participates in bride price, I always dress myself as a woman," Speedy says. Residents of Hanuabada used to chase gays away, but after realising how much they help women, they accepted them in the village
Speedy walks with women from his clan in Hanuabada village to deliver presents to a house where the bride price ceremony takes place
Heni (36) with his neighbours in Hanuabada village
Kenny and Speedy walk down the street in Hanuabada village while local youths tease them. Often kids follow gay men and make fun of them, but gay village residents never react to teasing
Heni (in the corner on the right) sleeps in his house in Hanuabada village. Almost all the houses in Hanuabada are crowded with large families, making privacy practically impossible
Speedy send text messages to one of his boyfriends
Speedy kisses a young man near his friend's house. Some men in Hanuabada village approach local gays to kiss or touch them. It is not uncommon for men from the village or other places in Port Moresby to come to Hanuabada seeking gay sex
Speedy sits on a small bridge near a house in Hanuabada village
A villager grabs Speedy in Hanuabada village. Local men make fun of gays, sometimes touching them on the streets of the village or calling them names. Speedy says that he can tolerate such behavior, because sometimes these men approach him later asking for sex
Speedy with his neighbours in Hanuabada village
Speedy takes a bath in Hanuabada village. Houses in Hanuabada do not have running water and people take bucket showers on wharfs
Heni and Speedy at Heni's house in Hanuabada village
Speedy’s neighbour grabs him to kiss on a wharf at Hanuabada. Such behaviour towards gays is common among the villagers
Haraga and his friends watch a video where two men were forced by the police to kiss each other at the gun point. Although those men on the video were not gays, police brutality is common against the members of PNG gay community. There were cases when local gays were beaten and raped by the police.
"Speedy" and his friend Toua (20) visiting the grave of their deceased friend, who died from AIDS a few years ago at the age of 38. Hanuabada village, Port Moresby.
Speedy smokes near the store in Hanuabada village, Port Moresby
Members of Port Moresby LGBT community in a dressing room at the Diamond nightclub. There are a few nightclubs in Port Moresby where gay and transgender people can go for parties and performances, but they can be dangerous. There have been many attacks in the past from street gangs and police, some of which have ended in rape or murder
A member of Port Moresby’s gay community applies make-up in a dressing room at the Diamond nightclub before performing at the Miss Gay World 2013 show
A club customer expresses his excitement as a transgender man passes him during the Miss Gay World 2013 show at Port Moresby's Diamond nightclub
Marbelline and Shantelle during a gay night at Port Moresby’s Pacific Leisure nightclub
A security guard at Port Moresby’s Pacific Leisure nightclub watches a member of the PNG Drag Queens group coming out of a female toilet
A group of local gays, called PNG Drug Queens, during the gay night at Port Moresby’s Pacific Leisure nightclub
Mike, as Marbelline, from Hanuabada village, dances with a man during a gay night party at Port Moresby’s Pacific Leisure nightclub
Speedy and his friend Toua (20) on the streets of Hanuabada village at night
Sonty, 36, and Kepera drink beer during gay a party in Hanuabada village. Local gays prefer to gather for drinks in Hanuabada rather than in Port Moresby's nightclubs, which can be dangerous
Speedy and Heni during a gay party in Hanuabada village
Kenny (right) dances with his friend Kepera during a gay party in Hanuabada village
Heni at the gay party in Hanuabada village
Speedy and Toua walk the streets of Hanuabada village at night. In other parts of Port Moresby they could be easily bitten or raped if they show that they are gay
© 2019 Vlad Sokhin. All rights reserved.