Feature On Kenyan Lesbian Raped, Gives Birth, Now Living With HIV To Be Screened
A feature on a lesbian who was raped and subsequently got pregnant and was infected with HIV is set for screening this evening at Internews Kenya at I&M Building, Kenyatta Avenue.
The feature, titled, ‘I am Mary’ showcases the life of Mary Muthui, a lesbian who has gone the harrowing experience of rape and is now on lifelong ARV treatment after she contracted HIV. She gave birth to a son as a result of the rape and is now raising the boy.
Produced by lesbian group, AFRA Kenya, the 8 minute feature is meant to highlight the challenges that face lesbian women in Kenya.
Cases of lesbian women being raped are common though they are not reported out of shame and fear that a victim may ‘out’ herself.
- Lesbian women, women who have sex with women considered not at high risk of HIV infection
- Data shows most lesbians, WSW are in heterosexual relationships
- Vaginal secretions, menstrual blood, risk of injuries, bruises common risk factors in HIV transmission in WSW
- Same sex activity among women not criminalized in most countries as compared to same sex in men
- Lesbians face ‘corrective rape’ that may lead to unwanted pregnancies, HIV infection, trauma
- Social factors like forced marriages seen as a contributing factor
- Additionally, according to Kate Kamunde, the Project Coordinator for ARA Kenya, the feature is meant to highlight the vulnerabilities of woman who have sex with other women, most of whom are in heterosexual relationship and lesbians, to HIV infection.
“Unfortunately, there is a general perception that sex between lesbians is never risky and most of the research institutions were ignorant about participating in our research. We had requested their participation so that the study would be credible and could be referred to especially when talking about lesbian women”, Kate told Gay Kenya in an interview.
Whereas there is no research on women who have sex with women and the rates of HIV infection and transmission in this group, this has led to this group being more at risk due to a gap in knowledge and also accessing HIV preventive materials.
‘Effective HIV programming for these populations has additional positive impact on the general population,’ said HIV activist Phelister Abdalla. ‘We know most of these women are married with children but have sex with other women and this puts them at risk of double HIV infection – from their husbands and their female partners.’
The CDC has said that ‘case reports of female-to-female transmission of HIV and the well-documented risk of female-to-male transmission indicate that vaginal secretions and menstrual blood are potentially infectious and that mucous membrane (for example, oral, vaginal) exposure to these secretions has the potential to lead to HIV infection.’
Despite research and data from NASCOP and NACC on other populations at greater risk of HIV infection – Men who have sex with other men (MSM), sex workers, male prisoners, truck drivers, fishing women, e.t.c. – women who have sex with other women have not been considered because they are not viewed at immediate risk of getting HIV. This situation is worrying lesbian activists.
MSM are considered criminal according to the Penal code and this has been blamed for HIV rise among the groups as many will not seek treatment for fear of arrest. Stigma and discrimination against same sex persons and homosexuals is also a key factor in HIV rise according to research.
However, the law is silent on lesbians and same sex activity among women.
Even though there has been no successful prosecution done for lesbians or those women caught having sex with other women, arrests are made and charges drawn up as ‘acts against public morality.’
AFRA-Kenya hopes to use this 8 minute documentary to fundraise for a much longer one that will focus on other women that have contracted HIV.
Lesbians are a group that faces similar risks of HIV, other STIs, and other health disparities as other most at risk persons. These risks are exacerbated by racial disparities in health care access, as well as by homophobia, sexism, and stigma.
Prevention and policy interventions must reach more deeply into communities of women and take into account the context of their lives, according to AFRA-Kenya
This first screening, by invite only, will be attended by some government officials, representatives from the civil society, donors and members of the LGBTI community. Subsequent screenings will be done at community centers.
Image credits | Mutua Matheka
Denis Nzioka is the Editor of Identity Kenya
by Denis Nzioka
Source – Identity Kenya