Being Gay in Papua New Guinea

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.

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Photography by Vlad Sokhin. Multimedia by Vlad Sokhin and Roman Kalyakin
Source – Life Force