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August 2014 issue
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 deseased friend Vagi, who died from AIDS 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