Added: Sanjay Saari - Date: 24.03.2022 15:46 - Views: 40017 - Clicks: 7581
Over a period of a few months, the BBC spoke to dozens of young lesbians in a country where homosexuality is illegal. They told us about their day-to-day lives and how they use secret memes to connect with each other on social media platforms and chat apps.
We have substituted those images with that of a violet for the purpose of this report. The women are in high spirits, chatting animatedly, playfully sketching patterns on each other using body paint, and sharing a picnic. They meet once a month, in different places. Sometimes in public but mostly behind closed doors. Most of them are wearing jeans and T-shirts in various colours, patterns and styles.
The T-shirts are important because printed on each one is a discreet, matching symbol. Something only they understand. They could be fined or imprisoned. But there is also the danger that people within their own communities may turn on them. Nella sends a photo to the BBC using an encrypted app. She's pictured sitting on a chair with young children around her. Another photo appears and this time she is wearing loose jeans and a fitted T-shirt. Her curled black hair is visible and falling on her shoulders. Both women beam megawatt, toothy smiles. It feels good.
Someone who knows her family may see her. But she's sure she won't be recognised, because when she goes to meet her girlfriend, she removes the hijab she wears at home. Nella was 17 years old when she fell in love with a girl for the first time. They met through sport — something Nella had been passionate about since she was a young girl.
She was from a conservative Muslim family. Dating was not an option, let alone with a woman. Nella was born in the city of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. The country, which is one of the world's poorest, is located in the African Great Lakes region.
It has struggled to gain stability since the end of a civil war in , and when it does hit the international headlines, it's mainly this image that is portrayed. When she was a teenager, Nella dreamed of going to university. But her family were constantly urging her to get married. They would introduce her to members of the extended family, in the hope they could find a match.
When her parents died, Nella's brothers increased the pressure. There was no money for an education, they said, and besides they didn't believe a woman needed one. They knew of a rich man who was interested in her. There was little time to lose, they insisted. At 20 she was getting on a bit. As a woman from a country like hers, Nella says her rights were already diminished.
The couple barely communicated and she dreaded intimacy. After the birth of her youngest child, Nella says she began to feel like the most isolated woman in the world. She doesn't want to go into much detail about her marriage. She turned to social media and carried out searches for women who like women. Suddenly, she realised she was not alone. What she discovered was that there is a shorthand, a secret code, that local lesbian women use to reach out to each other.
It largely relies on internet shorthand, obscure symbols used by lesbians around the world. Nella would send these images and emoticons to other women. Those in the know would respond. Buoyed by what she found, Nella began connecting with women online. Women like her. Women who soon became her closest friends. In , her husband found out about these conversations and her marriage broke down. He vowed to keep her sexuality a secret from the wider community for the sake of their children.
We are just one part of it. She was brought up by strict parents in a suburban neighbourhood of Bujumbura. She and her siblings had to be home earlier than their friends. Niya had to dress conservatively and was expected to act in a demure way.
Niya preferred friendships with boys but these never developed into crushes. At 14, she became a Christian. Thinking that part of her faith meant that she should avoid dating, she put her lack of romantic interest in boys down to a commitment to God. At 22, she met a woman who was also in her early 20s, through mutual friends. Bonding over their love of music, they formed a fast friendship.
Back at home, thinking about what had happened, Niya realised that she had feelings for her friend. The pair began to date in secret. It had nothing to do with religion. Two years later, Niya felt she had to tell one person in her immediate family.
She chose one of her brothers. She had looked up YouTube videos of lesbian vloggers in other parts of the world. She watched films featuring same-sex couples and read a lot of reports on lesbian, bisexual and queer LBQ communities. She began to understand the language of the internet. The BBC messaged Niya to tell her that we would be using images of a violet to illustrate the memes.
We chose the symbol - which differs vastly from the symbols the women use - because lesbian women in the s were said to give violets to their girlfriends. Watching the YouTube videos had confirmed to Niya that she was not alone. But where were the other gay women in Burundi? Leila had grown up in a loving, supportive middle-class family in Bujumbura city.
She was popular. She had a boyfriend. After months of thinking about her continuously, she needed to share her feelings. Leila texted the friend. The two agreed to draw a line under the embarrassing episode. Relieved, Leila put her months of infatuation down to a phase. It had been a one-off crush, with one woman. I cried. We convinced ourselves it was a phase.Seeking conversation connection Drummond Oklahoma
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