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Kenya: The plight of gays and lesbians in Kenya

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, Citizen Media, Human Rights, LGBTQ+, Women & Gender

As much as Nairobi is described as one of the more cosmopolitan cities in Africa where a lot of homosexuals find solace, homophobia is widespread [1].

For example, a Kenyan blogger Pater Nostra has a friend whose pictures were posted and debated on Wananchi Forums [2]. He exclaims [3]:

I am naturally pissed that the audacity of the member of Wananchiforums.com (to post such threatening and victimizing articles) has been entertained and of the administrators to allow such to be posted. Should anything happen to her, both the member and the administrators of the website have to blame. They have made a person vulnerable to attack, abuse, and assault which is morally wrong and goes against her fundamental rights to protection and security. Her life is in danger.

Keguro, an English professor and a blogger [4] reveals the underlying truth about how homosexuals are named and shamed all over the Internet. “The politics of outing” [5] is the title of his post. While most leaders are squirming on their seats over it, others are trying to smoke them out and stamping on their rights.

He blogs about the traumatic ordeal one has to face while still not comfortable with their sexuality:

Within the context of outing, one’s individual wishes and political stance are subsumed by another narrative. One is positioned as a homosexual, hailed as such, and must respond within the structure so created, a structure in which non-response is not possible. One need not respond to one’s accusers, but one responds to those who know one: family, friends, even to the email that offers information and sympathy.

He quotes [5] a gender and sexuality author, Lauren Berlant [6]:

It is this cluster of desires around one that I term “the political,” borrowing from Lauren Berlant’s notion of cruel optimism. To be outed in a country that provides no official spaces or languages for recognizing outing is to become subject to a host of desires, some friendly, some not, some lustful, some not. One becomes marked. Many years ago, when I first came out, my mother composed a grand narrative of my life that, in retrospect, sounds like something from Austin Powers. I was a mad party animal bottom. Her terms, not mine. When I asked how I found time to study as a mad party animal bottom, she replied, quite rationally, that I was a mad party animal bottom from Friday through Sunday. (In truth, I went out Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and was relatively asexual, which I made up for in that glorious year I turned 24. Ahhh, 24!) (A confession, happy now?)

He concludes [5]:

I have written, previously, about the dangers of homophobic discourse within a space that does not have any homosexual discourse. In such a space, outing becomes impossible as an affirmative gesture. Yet, isn’t it precisely in such impossible spaces that we have become possible?

Samuel Delaney writes that “coming out” used to mean coming out into a homosexual community, not as a performance of truth to gazing heterosexuals. I do not use the word community much, and do not trust it. But it can be a powerful thing to imagine, and wonderful to belong.

Such belonging might be one necessary, useful, and pleasurable afterlife.

Two months ago, Keguro blogged about a woman who had her head smashed [7] with a beer bottle in a club because of her sexual orientation:

[A Kenyan lesbian] was leaving Madd House on the said morning with a friend – (anonymous), when, as they were walking through the exit, a woman shouted out behind them “ma lesbians”…. [The Kenyan lesbian] didn’t recognize the woman and they got into a verbal confrontation during which the woman hit her with her bag and went off to go back upstairs. [The Kenyan lesbian] and (anonymous) followed the woman, later identified to them as Constance Sirikwa Rukia, and saw her being hidden in the changing rooms by the bouncers.

[The Kenyan lesbian] went to ask the bouncers why they were hiding the woman when they should be kicking her out for disturbing them. The bouncers held each of [The Kenyan lesbian’s] hands and attempted to throw her out. Upon seeing that [The Kenyan lesbian] was being held by the bouncers, the woman then hit [The Kenyan lesbian] on the head with a bottle that she’d been holding and she fell down, bleeding heavily.

What most bloggers found surprising was how the security guards were willing to sacrifice core principles of citizen protection, making them less safe. An anonymous reader on Nostra's blog says [8]:

These people are bad. What they have done is wrong and they should not be allowed anymore to do this. Why are they doing this? I cant believe that such hate exist unless they do it for the sake of publicity. They have disseminated the article to many fora and I think that is their intention. They want it to be known. Its wrong. Pouline is strong.