Kenya making progress, but anti-gay violence continues

18 Jul

Kenyans are gradually becoming more tolerant of LGBT people, but a violent anti-gay campaign is currently under way, says the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK).

The apparent trigger for the Kenyan violence was an uproar about homosexuality, provoked by a discredited study that claimed that Nairobi and two other locations in Ken

The common denominator is that the attacks came soon after a study, disowned by the National AIDS Control Council (NACC), which alleged that the three Kenya cities Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi had the highest number of gay men in the country.

GALCK said that, based on reports they receive, at least five people per week are victimized by anti-gay blackmailers, while other LGBT people are threatened with eviction from their homes for their sexual orientation. In addition, girls are expelled from public schools for alleged lesbianism.

William Ruto

William Ruto

One encouraging sign is that the country’s National AIDS Strategic Plan has classified  men who have sex with men (MSM) among the “Most at Risk Populations (MARPs),” which should get intense focus in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The country’s deputy president, William Ruto, recently highlighted the government’s “obligation to provide inclusive and effective services to all, including sex workers, people who use drugs, men who have sex with men and people in prisons.”

GALCK called that a hopeful signal.  This is GALCK’s press release, issued  today:

The Value of Life

In Kenya, like in many African countries non-heterosexual orientations are not as widely accepted and recognized as in some parts of the world. This can be attributed to the nature in which most of our cultures are set up; a set-up under which the self-determination of women, youth and anyone that is perceived to challenge the balance of power in society has been oppressed.

Apart from cultures, high religiosity and the conservative interpretation of religious doctrines have immensely contributed to not only non-recognition but also in the creation of a pretext that encourages the use of violence and discrimination against same sex loving persons. Studies such as Pew Research’s Global Divide on Homosexuality have demonstrated this obvious fact.

The study mentioned above has also pointed out that the level of acceptance in Kenya has grown by 5% in the last six years. As human rights campaigners, we know that getting to that vital point of general social acceptance is a process of evolution of culture. This solely relies on the fact that culture is so dynamic. As we wait for this cultural change however, there continues to be gross violations of dignity, equality and basic human rights of individuals that are part of our families, communities and society.

Recent Incitement and Hate Attacks:

21st June, 2013 – Mombasa: 
A member of our community was slashed with a machete/’panga’ several times especially around the neck /throat area. His attacker later threw him out of a moving vehicle and left him for dead. Fortunately he was rescued and taken to hospital. He has received medical attention and continues to recover. (See video.)

22nd June, 2013– Nairobi: A man was sexually assaulted using a hammer and repeatedly hit on the head with it. He also suffered several knife cuts on the head and arms. The incident was reported to the police.

24th June, 2013 – Mombasa: A second incident, where another member of the community was taken to the same hospital with similar slash wounds to the neck/throat. Unfortunately he did not survive.

23rd and 24th June, 2013-Mombasa: Radio Rahma call-in talk show hosted agitated callers who openly said that they were on a mission to “clean up” Mombasa of sex workers especially MSM/Male Sex Workers (MSWs) and the organizations that provide them with health services.

21st -27th June, 2013-Kisumu: There have been reports of intimidation and beatings of persons perceived to be gay by vigilante groups. These incidents haven’t been reported to the police since it is known that even the police in the area fear these vigilante gangs.

The common denominator is that the attacks came soon after a study, disowned by the National AIDS Control Council (NACC), which alleged that Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi had the highest number of gay men in the country.

On a weekly basis, as informed by our internal incident logs, at least five people fall victim to blackmailing rackets that threaten to expose their orientation, others face eviction from their homes, while others have their right to privacy is violated.

There have also been cases where girls have been expelled from public schools for alleged lesbianism, despite the globally recognized health and socio-economic impact of prematurely terminating girls education. In February 2012, 8 girls were expelled from a high school in Kilifi and in June 2013 6 girls expelled from a school in Muranga.

Impact on Health

The stigma and discrimination by healthcare givers has been a considerable barrier to the access and uptake of sexual and reproductive health information and services in general and STI and HIV services in particular among sexual minority persons.

NACC’s Kenya National AIDS Strategic Plan 2009/10-2012/13 (KNASP III) has classified men who have sex with men (MSM) under the Most at Risk Populations (MARPs). Across all its strategies, NACC has centrally focused on MARPS and vulnerable groups in order to directly address existing epidemiological evidence and the sources of new HIV infections. We can therefore say that the government is actively responding to HIV/AIDS evidence and should be supported to do even more.

William Ruto on the campaign trail.

William Ruto on the campaign trail

3rd July, 2013 – Nairobi: Deputy President William Ruto stated the following:

“Although Kenya has diverse religious and cultural positions, the Government has an obligation to provide inclusive and effective services to all including sex workers, people who use drugs, men who have sex with men and people in prisons.”

This is hopefully a signal that the government will continue to uphold the constitution and ensure the equal provision of services to all Kenyan citizens including minorities and vulnerable groups. We hope that NACC is allowed to continue and even strengthen the good work it is doing.

9th July, 2013 – The Standard Newspaper posted the following:

‘Deputy President William Ruto urged the US president to respect the African country’s culture and religious beliefs that view homosexuality as a sin.’“No one should have any worry about Kenya’s stand as a God-fearing nation. President Obama is a powerful man but we trust in God as it is written in the Bible that cursed is the man who puts trust in another man,” Ruto said.

It is our hope that the media can equally report on the significant strides made by the Deputy President and NACC. It is also our view that selective reporting may subtly incite further hate crimes as has been the case with previous reports mentioned earlier.

Legal situation

On numerous occasions anti-gay advocates have claimed that the LGB community wants the right to marry as in the US and Europe. This cannot be further from the truth.

The community is simply asking that, beyond its HIV/AIDS response, government carries out its obligation to protect the rights and dignity of all Kenyan citizens. This obligation cannot be transferred or put aside for a more accommodating time when the society accepts it.

Amnesty International’s candle-and-barbed-wire symbol. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Amnesty International’s candle-and-barbed-wire symbol. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The existence of regressive laws and policies that hinder the government’s ability to protect the fundamental human rights of its citizens should be addressed. Organizations representing the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) individuals under GALCK were involved in developing a recently launched report by Amnesty International, “Making Love A Crime: Criminalization of same-sex conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

The report, using individual testimonies from various countries, urges governments to repeal laws criminalizing adult consensual same-sex conduct and to enforce laws protecting LGB individuals from discrimination, harassment and violence, in accordance with their obligations under national and international law.

We view Human Rights as not being relative to geography, time and tradition. Human Rights are universal – as universal as the human being – each and every one of whom is born free and equal in dignity and rights.


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