The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Aug 2014 back issue
Being Gay in Papua New Guinea
Photography: Vlad Sokhin. Multimedia: Vlad Sokhin and Roman Kalyakin
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.  Around thirty gay men permanently live in the village, a collection of traditional-style Papuan houses on stilts. Other PNG homosexuals have moved there from other places around the country. Gele gele (”gay men” in Tok Pisin, the local language) take on traditionally female roles in society, such as cooking, washing clothes and participating on the women’s side in cultural rituals and traditional festivals.   In PNG homosexuals are mostly accepted by coastal inhabitants, but are targeted in areas populated by highlanders. Violence against them, such as biting and rape, is common; there have been a number of reported murders. Members of the Hanuabada LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) 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 long imprisonment directed at LGBT persons during the last few years.   Although there are few nightclubs in Port Moresby that allow gay and transgender people to have “gay nights”, for safety reasons, most of the Hanuabada gay population prefer not to leave the village at night, organizing 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 "Speedy" (on the left, 35) and Kenny (38)  in Kenny's house in Hanuabada village. Hanuabada is the only gay friendly place in Port Moresby, where homosexuals are accepted by the community and feel safe.
Hanuabada is a traditional Motuan village in Port Moresby and the only place in the PNG capital where local homosexuals feel safe.
Haraga "Speedy", 35, doing his laundry. Male homosexuality is prohibited according to section 210 of the Papua New Guinea penal code and those caught engaging in anal sex can get punished with up to 14 years imprisonment. Despite this prohibition ”gelegele” (gay men) play various female roles in society.
Haraga "Speedy" and women from Hanuabada village dressed for the bride price. "When our clan participates in bride price, I always dress myself as a woman", says Haraga. Residents of Hanuabada state that in the past they used to chase gays away, but then they realised that they are good helpers to women, so they accepted them in the 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 such teasing.
Haraga "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" and Heni during a gay party in Hanuabada village. Local homosexuals prefer to gather for drinks in Hanuabada rather than in Port Moresby's nightclubs where it could be dangerous for them.
Kenny, 38 (on the right) dances with his friend Kepera during a gay party in Hanuabada village.
Heni (36, in the corner on the rightr) sleeps in his house in Hanuabada/Elevala village. Almost all the houses in Hanuabada are crowded with large families, where privacy is practically impossible.
Haraga "Speedy" takes bath in Hanuabada village. Houses in Hanuabada do not have running water and people take bucket showers on wharfs.
A villager grabs Haraga "Speedy" in Hanuabada village. Local man make fun of gays, sometimes touching them on the streets of the village or calling names. "Speedy" says that he can tolerate such behavior, because sometimes such men approach him later asking for sex.
Hanuabada homosexuals watch a video where two men were forced by the police to kiss each other at gun point. Although the men on the video were not gay, police brutality is common against the members of PNG gay community. There have been cases where local homosexuals have been beaten and raped by the police.
"Speedy" and his friend Toua (20) visiting the grave of their deceased friend Vagi, who died from AIDS a few years ago at the age of 38. Hanuabada village, Port Moresby.
Members of Port Moresby LGBT community in a dressing room at the Diamond night club. There are few nightclubs in Port Moresby where homosexuals can go for parties and performances, and going there might be very dangerous for them. There have been many attacks in the past from street gangs and the police, some of those attacks 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 homosexual passes him by during the Miss Gay World 2013 show at Port Moresby's Diamond nightclub.
A security guard at the Pacific Leisure nightclub in Port Moresby watches a member of "PNG Drag Queens" group coming out of female toilet.
Mike "Marbelline" from Hanuabada dances with a man during a gay night party at Pacific Leisure nightclub in Port Moresby.
Back to menu
Back to current issue