Behind the Mask LGBT African website
January 26, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Kenyan male sex workers serve “politicians and religious leaders”
Nanjala Majale (BTM Correspondent)
Mombasa – 26 January 2009: Panning out to Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya, a young good-looking well-groomed man sits on a bamboo chaise lounge. He is a male sex worker, who caters only for male clientele. He has a slightly bored expression on his face, but is willing to talk about his lifestyle and line of work.
“I don’t know why they think there are only a pocketful of homosexuals in this country”, Brian* mused before the interview even started, staring absentmindedly at his nails.“Our main market is not the white tourists who come down here. We cater for people in Nairobi, Meru and even Mandera!” He went on to say, in a slightly feminine tone, that last December he spent the entire month, fully paid, in Nairobi. “I had fun!” Brian enthused.
Brian is one of many male sex workers who cater exclusively to male clients. He regularly attends one of four health centres that serve MSM in the coastal town, set up with the help of the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICHR) an institution that teaches men about safe sex practices and offers occasional counselling.
In a study published in the June 2007 edition of AIDS, researchers estimated that at least 739 MSM were selling sex to other men in and around the city of Mombasa, a “sizeable population that urgently needs to be targeted by HIV prevention strategies,” the research said.
24-year-old Brian says he initially got into the business to make money. “Nowadays sometimes I do it just for pleasure, but mostly it’s for the money. I work only five times a week,” he declared. Asked whether he is a homosexual Brian confided “I was raped by a neighbour when I was about eight years old and from that time I started getting sexual urges – more for men than women. I didn’t take any action after the rape, because I was threatened”, he revealed, explaining that he suffered emotionally for a while before coming to terms with it.
“I started actively going with boys when I was in secondary school. I was in a boarding school and I had about 40 boyfriends during my four years of studying there,” he said with a seemingly shy but proud expression.
“I didn’t have sex with all of them, but I liked the romance. After college is when I came out and from then I would look for people who want serious relationships.”
Brian revealed that his first few relationships did not work. “Most people just wanted to have sex and then they would often cheat on me. I have never desired to have a sexual relationship with a woman though. Maybe one day I will, just to try.” “In my business, I charge about KSH 1,200 per shot. But that’s on the lower side for the younger clients. I only give two shots, once at night and once in the morning. I don’t stretch myself. I don’t like old guys,” he confided with a low voice, “so with those ones I charge a bit extra, about KSH 2,500 and that is just for the night.”
Brian says that despite the stigma that faces homosexuals, more specifically from society, police, and the church, their clientele is made up of people in these very segments. It was revealed at a June 2007 conference on Peer Education, HIV and AIDS, in Nairobi, that MSM face high levels of stigma and discrimination. Agnes Runyiri of ICHR said at the forum that homosexuality is considered taboo, un-African and anti-Christian.
“It [homosexuality] is very common. The only problem is stigma. That is why we are scared to come out. But in real sense, our clients are politicians, businessmen, religious leaders – I’m very sorry to say – but it’s true,” Brian pointed out. Since every business has its own down sides Brian narrated that “sometimes you get bad customers who pay you less than the agreed amount or disappear with your money.”
“Luckily, I have never had a violent customer although I was in a violent relationship once. He used to beat me up and say that it was because I had become naughty, that is why I had to break it off”, he said shrugging. He also underlined that safe sex is key in his line of work, and even generally with men who have sex with men. “There is a safe clinic [ICHR] that I work with. I started as a peer educator, but since I have a background in journalism, I now work as a counsellor. We have very many gays, who are messing about and they don’t know that they are. We deal with prevention of HIV/AIDS and it is helping because many of us were dying.”
He says it’s unfortunate that homosexuals are mistreated in most health institutions, an issue which he thinks the government should look into. “I wish that the government would sensitise the whole country to accept that this thing [homosexuality] is there and we have to help these guys out. The more we push it under the table, the more we are going to die. What we need is health rights, not even marriage rights because I don’t think even my family would allow me to do that [be a homosexual]. They need sensitisation. People don’t understand that we are normal human beings, it is just that our sexual preferences are different”, he concluded.
by Mask Admin
May 20, 2009 – IRMA
IDAHO – Report from Nairobi
by Larry Misedah, IRMA Steering Committee Member
Even though same sex practices are criminalized in Kenya, there have been milestones that are of great significance. It is however of great importance that people and institutions maintain their commitment and strengthen the links between scholars, advocates and service providers in ways that build and sustain the development of skills, knowledge production, and the accessibility of local literature.
As the world marked the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO – May 17), this year saw a remarkable commemoration of the day in Kenya graced by great panelists from the mainstream human rights organizations. The issue of strategies came out strongly from both the Commissioner for the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Lawrence Mute and the Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Muthoni Wanyeki .
In his speech about the use of Yogyakarta Principles to advance human rights for LGBTI people in Kenya, Mr. Mute pointed out the challenges still faced in Kenya especially in terms of intervention programs. He pointed out the inclusion of MSM (men who have sex with men) in the Kenya National Strategic Plan yet there are no intervention programs on the ground apart from the initiative of a few organizations. Perhaps key to the health awareness for MSM/WSW (women who have sex with women), was Nguru Karugu, a public health consultant who gave a speech about how homophobia hinders HIV/AIDS intervention programs for MSM/WSW. Mr. Karugu stressed on the issue of internalized homophobia drawing from varied research that have been carried out. As a way forward, he put the different groups at task to try and find out the possible ways of investigating whether internalized homophobia also has implications for the activities carried by the different organizations in trying to prevent sexual risk behavior.
In the presentation about th importance of inclusion of MSM in research projects – Joseph from the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative( KAVI) made a strong emphasis on the importance of inclusion of MSM as a sub group in the HIV/AIDS Vaccine research in ensuring an effective vaccine for all taking into consideration the different strains of HIV. Notably, KAVI still remains one of the few organizations that provide intervention programs for MSM.
Despite the research done by Coalition of African Lesbians in South Africa, WSWs are still not believed to not be at a higher risk of HIV infection. This has led to being left out at the National Plans for HIV/AIDS intervention Programs citing lack of evidence. This brought out clearly the importance of data in providing evidence since interventions can only be carried out where the facts have been verified.
As the day came to a close with a silent candle light vigil held in memory of those who have suffered and even lost their lives to homophobia. With the prevalence rate of 22% following the VCT services carried out at the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) in December 2008, hearts poured out to those who have lost their lives to HIV and suffered severe consequences of other STIs in silence. With the Access Project, an Initiative of Ishtar MSM with funding from the amfAR with technical support from Liverpool VCT care and treatment, it is of utmost hope that the project and other initiatives will provide access to relevant sexual health information to MSM in Nairobi in order to reduce the rate of spread of HIV/Aids and STIs among the group.
May 22, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Kenyan Gays Advised To Strategise Struggle For Rights
by Ken Were (BTM Correspondent)
Nairobi – Kenya’s LGBTI community has called on government to embrace legislation that will amend and bring about laws that recognise their rights thus protecting them from homophobia. They said this during an open discussion session with over 120 members of society including the Kenyan National Human Rights Commission, officials from the health sector, human rights activists, Other Sheep East Africa and so forth, organised by the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), on May 17.
The best way to ensure this, as advised by human rights activists, is to not engage their government in confrontation and grandstanding, but to strategically press for law reforms in the constitution. According to Lawrance Mute, commissioner with the Kenyan National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC), government has to repeal all sections of laws criminalising same sex relationships and sodomy.
This is along journey. The LGBTI community has to be ready to travel it, not only in Kenya but across Africa. It may not come tomorrow, but with concerted efforts and pressure it will bear fruits, Commissioner Mute noted. Mute said that when oppressive laws are repealed by parliament, the LGBTI community will have an opportunity to enjoy their full fundamental rights without fear of their security. With all these laws in place, one will have a right to complain to the government if he or she feels their fundamental rights are infringed or if they are discriminated in the society even by their very own family members, Mute added.
Mute also challenged the LGBTI community in Kenya to engage the media on human rights policy issues so to generate a wide ranging debate, discussions and interrogation of rights deprivation as a result of ignorance from the society.
Muthoni Wanyeki, one of Kenya’s leading human rights defenders advised the LGBTI community vigorously raise awareness and initiate strong advocacy for their rights. You must have a blue print document to let the government know that you are on with campaigns for your rights to be respected and recognised, Wanyeki added. Reverend Micheal Kimundu, of Other Sheep East Africa and former cleric of the Anglican Church of Kenya narrated how he was cast out of the church by its leadership for openly supporting LGBTI rights.
I want to confirm to you that religious groups hold highest homophobia on us. It’s upon us now to educate church leaders and their followers on fundamental human rights. We must be able change their attitude though reaching to them, talking to them and interacting with them. The event, which aimed to commemorate IDAHO, Promote the work of GALCK and to reach out to the Kenyan society, was a success according to David Kuria, Manager of GALCK. The fact that we managed to bring together of 120 members of society to talk about issues of homophobia, was a great achievement, Kuria said.
May 26, 2009 – Behind The Mask
NGO Sets Agenda For Sexuality Discussions
by Nanjala Majala (BTM Correspondent)
Kenya – A Non Governmental Organization in Kenya’s Nyanza province is set to launch a sexual identity and human rights debate project on Tuesday.Kenya Female Advisory Organization (KEFEADO)’s executive director Dolphin Oketch says the debate will open space for dialogue on sexuality. Oketch says there has been silence on homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transsexual practices in Kenyan schools, families and the society that must be addressed.
The organisation has received reports from students learning in schools where same sex relations, have been met with violent reactions and resistance from school administrators, she said. She says reports about students injuring each other in schools simply because they suspect their fellows to be cheating on them are quite common in several schools in the province. Addressing the press in Kisumu on Monday ahead of the launch, Oketch said that they would work with guidance and counseling teachers to break the silence.
The project will target ten districts in the province during the first phase of the project and she is optimistic that academic standards in the region will improve. Oketch urged parents to shed certain myths surrounding sex and open up for dialogue with their sons and daughters.
27 May 2009 – Plus News
Africa: Prevention efforts and infection patterns mismatched
Johannesburg (PlusNews) – In at least five African countries, scarce resources are being spent on national HIV prevention campaigns that do not reach the people most at risk of infection, new research has found. Between 2007 and 2008, UNAIDS and the World Bank partnered with the national AIDS authorities of Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland, Uganda and Mozambique to find out how and where most HIV infections were occurring in each country, and whether existing prevention efforts and expenditure matched these findings. The recently released reports reveal that few prevention programmes are based on existing evidence of what drives HIV/AIDS epidemics in the five countries surveyed.
In Lesotho, where nearly one in four are living with HIV, an analysis of national prevalence and behavioural data found that most new infections were occurring because people had more than one partner at a time, both before and during marriage. But Lesotho has no prevention strategies to address the problem of concurrent partnerships, or target couples who are married or in long-term relationships.
An evaluation of Mozambique’s prevention response found that an estimated 19 percent of new HIV infections resulted from sex work, 3 percent from injecting drug use, and 5 percent from men who have sex with men (MSM), yet there are very few programmes targeting sex workers, and none aimed at drug users and MSM. The research also found that spending on HIV prevention was often simply too low: Lesotho spent just 13 percent of its national AIDS budget on prevention, whereas Uganda spent 34 percent, despite having an HIV infection rate of only 5.4 percent.
Debrework Zewdie, director of the World Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS Unit, noted that the current global economic downturn made it more important than ever to get the most impact out of investments in HIV prevention. "These syntheses use the growing amounts of data and information available to better understand each country’s epidemic and response, and identify how prevention might be more effective." The reports made recommendations on how the countries could move towards more evidence-based prevention strategies to make more efficient use of limited resources.
Lesotho was advised to revise the content of its prevention messages to address multiple concurrent partnerships and integrate partner reduction into all future policies. One of the recommendations to Mozambique was that condom promotion programmes be focused on high-risk groups such as sex workers. The five-country project also aimed to build capacity to enable these nations to undertake similar studies in future, as part of their ongoing efforts to evaluate and plan HIV responses.
12 June 2009 – Behind The Mask
LGBTI Debate Moves To Kenyan Schools
by Nanjala Majala (BTM Correspondent)
Kenya – Learning institutions in the country have been urged by experts to set rules and regulations regarding homosexual behaviour in schools. Kenya Female Advisory Organisation coordinator Dolphin Oketch said on Friday that boarding schools are more prone to witnessing cases of students practicing homosexuality, and thus the need for some set rules. While not expounding on the matter, Oketch however said that these educational institutions should create space for dialogue among students on their sexual lives, and not resort to only discussing the issue when a crisis has occurred.
She emphasised during a workshop that it is important for a school environment to be open in talking about sexual issues so that students can feel comfortable sharing their sexual experiences and feelings. An associate professor and clinical mental health coordinator at the University of Vermont, USA, Dr Jane Achieng suggested that school personnel need to understand the nature of sexual orientation development and be supportive to the youth.
Achieng said that it is not the role of school counsellors to attempt to change the students’ sexual expression, but instead to provide understanding. “If schools become more open to discussing sexual issues and addressing sexual expressions rather than punishing them, then more a acceptable behaviour would merge in schools”, she said. The two were speaking to school teachers and committee members in Kisumu, during a sexual identity and human rights debate project in the lakeside town.
Oketch explained that the project would run for three years at a cost of 150,000 Euros, but the first phase would target ten districts in Nyanza province before it is rolled out in other districts in the region. She said that the debate would be geared towards breaking the silence on homosexuality, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual practices in schools, families and in the society at large.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya under section 162 of the penal code. It is widely considered as taboo, un-African and un-Christian in Kenya, despite an increasing number of citizens who identify as LGBTI boosting networks and visibility especially in recent years. In a bid to break the open discrimination, several LGBTI organizations have emerged in the country, offering support and information and creating awareness on the existence of the Kenyan LGBTI community.
The current project is expected to bring much needed focus onto sexuality issues in Kenya, which are often swept under the carpet. According to Oketch such dialogue will facilitate knowledge-backed interactions during debates, for the purpose of helping young people make informed decisions on their lives, free from coercion.
June 10, 2009 – Global Voices Online (blog)
Homosexuality is perceived as a new phenomenon in Africa and a taboo. It is outlawed in many African countries. Many African leaders have condemned homosexuality as being un-African. The Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe once described gays as worse than dogs and pigs. Former Namibia’s President, Sam Nujoma, once stated that “Homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society.”
Nigeria introduced a bill in 2007 banning same sex marriage. According to Rod 2.0 the bill is the most comprehensive homophobic legislation ever proposed in the world. Early this year homosexuals in Nigeria stormed the National Assembly seeking for legislation that will guarantee the protection.
Lifestyle, culture and religion have become the invisible fence to many homosexuals in Africa barring them from their freedom of sexual expression. A Kenyan blogger, Wilde Yearnings, was quite optimistic after US President Barack Obama officially declared June being a gay pride month and decriminalizing of homosexuality all over the world earlier this month. He posted Obama’s speech on his blog:
"My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world…Now, Therefore, I, Barak Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists" …
02 July 2009 – Behind the Mask
Government Targets MSM On HIV Prevention
by Nanjala Majale (BTM Correspondent)
Kenya – The Kenyan government has emphasized the need for increased awareness on the use of condoms among commercial sex workers and homosexuals, groups it says are most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Head of the National Aids and STD Control Programme, Dr Nicholas Muraguri, told reporters on Wednesday at a press conference in Nairobi that this would be a sure way of reducing the spread of the syndrome. “Commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men are contributing up to fifteen percent of our HIV infections every year. This is a huge population, so there is a need for us to focus,” Dr Muraguri said.
“Half of the clients of men who have commercial sex with men sex are actually married and therefore they may be a bridge for HIV infections in other areas,” he added. Muraguri also outlined plans to expand awareness programmes to the rural areas. “It looks like in urban areas, condom use access and availability is actually good but in the rural population, we have a challenge. And that is why we are now moving towards working with the social organisations and youth groups at a lower level to help with the distribution.”
He further stated that youth who were exposed to such awareness campaigns were more likely to protect themselves against HIV infections than those who were not. “Over 55 percent of sexually active males between the ages of 15 to 24 years exposed to condom advertisements were more likely to report consistent condom use with non-spousal co-habiting,” he said. The medic explained that there was a higher HIV prevalence among 15 to 24-year-old women compared to men.
“This indicates a need to design a forceful and persuasive campaign on HIV prevention strategies targeting female youth”, he concluded.
09 Jul 2009 – AlterNet
Kenya: Stop ignoring us, say high-risk groups
Source: IRIN (Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author’s alone.)
Nairobi (IRIN) – As Kenya prepares its third National AIDS Strategic Plan, several high-risk groups are calling on the government to give them more say in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Commercial sex workers, injecting drug users (IDUs) and men who have sex with men (MSM) were mentioned as vulnerable groups in previous strategic plans, but government-funded HIV programmes have largely ignored them.
A UNAIDS analysis of HIV transmission modes and prevention responses found that even though heterosexual sex caused 80 percent of new infections, IDUs, clients of sex workers and MSM were "significant contributors" to new infections. UNAIDS recommended that these "most at-risk populations" (MARPs) should have a higher profile in the country’s strategy.
Dr Nicholas Muraguri, director of the National AIDS and STIs [sexually transmitted infections] Control Programme (NASCOP), told a national stakeholders meeting for MARPs in the capital, Nairobi, on 7 July, that it was high time the government realized these groups were a major source of new HIV infections and started formulating programmes for them.
"We must stop living in denial as a country, and start to foster programmes that would integrate these groups adequately," he said. "We cannot afford to leave out some groups … they also have rights."
Jared Mulwa*, 30, says the government and society have forced him into leading a double life: he is married and has a one-year-old daughter, but also has same-sex relationships; he did not marry his wife because he wanted to, but to fit into society.
"It is torturous being an MSM in Kenya because there is nobody to turn to – to society you are an outcast, and before the law you are a criminal who should be behind bars," he said. "How do we get involved in HIV programmes … when we are in every sense of the word grouped with criminals? We are endangering both our lives and those of others due to silence and stigmatization."
Dr Muraguri promised that the third National AIDS Strategic Plan would include a target of universal access to HIV and AIDS services for most at-risk populations by 2013. "We need to start doing things differently by discussing changes to policies and laws that criminalize and discriminate against MARPs, and developing mechanisms for identifying these groups and their networks to make it easier to reach them," he said.
John Mark*, an injecting drug user, appealed for a programme to ensure that drug users did not have to share needles, which can rapidly spread HIV. "When you are addicted to hard drugs, like me, so long as you can get the drug into your system, the means matters very little," he said. "Why can’t they just build a centre where we can go and get needles, and in the process counsel those of us who are ready to change?"
Dr Joshua Kimani, clinical director of the Kenya AIDS Project, a joint programme between the University of Nairobi and the University of Manitoba, in Canada, called for a greater involvement of MARPs in designing programmes, and a minimum package of HIV/AIDS services for them. "We never consult sex workers because we assume we know what they need, but we never ask them," he said.
A study by the Kenya AIDS Project revealed that only 30 percent of male sex workers and 31 percent of female sex workers knew how to use a condom correctly, while 33.5 percent of female sex workers and 49.2 percent of male sex workers were infected with HIV. The Kenya AIDS Project has set up voluntary HIV counselling and testing sites in Nairobi solely for commercial sex workers and their clients. So far, 65 clients and over 5,000 female sex workers have made use of the services.
14 July 2009 – African Science News
Stigma, discrimination against MSMs: What is the role of the Kenya Government?
by Henry Neondo
Despite increasing awareness of the role that men who have sex with men (MSM) play in the dynamics of HIV transmission, the Kenyan government continues to exclude them in its response to HIV and AIDS. According to Mathenge*, a gay man living in Nairobi, Kenyans and their government have continued to treat homosexuality and lesbianism as a curse, and have perpetuated stigma and discrimination against people with sexual orientation considered “not straight.”
Mathenge said an identified MSM or lesbian will be arrested, denied treatment and suffer humiliation at the hands of healthcare providers. It has been reported that nurses often call the attention of their colleagues whenever a patient identifies himself or herself as gay or lesbian. He said even though scientific research has shown that the spread of HIV is the fastest among MSM compared to heterosexuals, the government still continues to shun MSM in HIV prevention campaigns.
This, according to Mathenge, is partly due to the fact that many Kenyans practice double lives. Well-placed individuals in Kenyan society and men married to women would sleep with gay men, but for fear of stigma and discrimination, the same men would not come out to support government funding towards HIV prevention programmes among MSM and lesbians. Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya under the Penal Code, Section 162. This has resulted in the lack of prevention, care and management in HIV programmes.
This is strengthened further by the general perception among Kenyans that the practices are illegal, anti-religious and anti-social. As a result, practitioners face stigma and lack national support for any health interventions including the response to HIV and AIDS. Peter Njoroge, the Director of ISHTAR –MSM, based in Nairobi, explained that voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centres do not reach out to MSM. Men who identify as homosexual are likely not to be seen by staff.
He criticised reports that if you tell a receptionist at a VCT that you are MSM, then all the healthcare providers will come out to look at you. This explains part of MSMs’ fear of stigmatization if they reveal their sexuality, which often results in self- medicating. Agnes Rinyiru, a consultant researcher for the International Center for Reproductive Health (ICRH) explained that this alienation leads to HIV prevalence. Njoroge added that it also leads MSM to fabricate stories to the doctors, which results in incorrect medication being prescribed.
A study conducted in Mombasa on behalf of the ICRH and the Population Council in 2008 identified the “lack of prevention and care programmes directed at men having sex with men.” There is clearly ignorance and shunning of the needs of MSM in society. Njoroge added that healthcare providers are not trained to provide services to MSM and are unaware of their sexual health and HIV needs. “There are no appropriate and sensitive counselling services and HIV and sexual health campaigns only talk about vaginal sex as route of transmission,” Njoroge said.
A study by the Kenya AIDS Project revealed that only 30 per cent of male sex workers and 31 per cent of female sex workers knew how to use a condom correctly, while 33.5 per cent of female sex workers and 49.2 per cent of male sex workers tested positive for HIV. The Kenya AIDS Project set up voluntary HIV counselling and testing sites in Nairobi solely for sex workers and their clients. So far, 65 clients and over 5,000 female sex workers have made use of the services.
Together with the Sex Workers Outreach Programme, which works under the National AIDS/STD Control Programme, NASCOP, and is supported by the Center for Disease Control to offer free treatment to MSM, MSM have very little room to manouvre to access their health rights. According to Agatha Muthoni, Programme Assistant for Health Rights Advocacy Forum (HERAF), the health rights of the MSM and lesbians are not protected and as long as their rights have not been legalized, this has over time seen contravention of HIV preventions among these groups.
July 30, 2009 – RMN Blog
Other Sheep Kenya Travels to Kisumu, Kenya, to present seminar
by Rev. John Makokha, Nairobi, Kenya
Other Sheep Kenya held a one day workshop for clergy and laity drawn mostly from the Anglican Church in hotel Naselica in Kisumu in Kenya on 18 July, 2009. The theme of the seminar was "Religion and Sexuality in our African Context". A total of 12 participants attended the seminar. These seminars have been supported by the grant from Uhai- Eashri (East Africa Sexuality, Health Rights Initiative).
Rev. Michael Kimindu, (Anglican/ MCC clergy), Other Sheep East Africa Coordinator facilitated the seminar on "Religion and Homophobia" said that the hate on same sex relationship is due to ignorance, intolerance, bigotry and fear. "When the church promotes homophobia it negates our call since salvation is for all (Isaiah 56: 7-8)". Kimindu said that the gospel is not about hate, isolation and exclusion but it is about reconciliation, repentance and renewal. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female and there is neither heterosexual nor homosexual". He said that we are all one in Christ.
He said that there are thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons who believe God hates them because of their sexuality. Negative reaction without deep research and study of issues of sexual orientation has made things worse. Church leaders have repeated the negative spiritual messages, instead of what God teaches-love. He said, "Our politicians and church leaders have used the weapon of homophobia to get votes into positions of power and influence and have continued to reinforce this negative message through inaction and failure to protect the rights of all".
Rev. John Makokha, (UMC minister), Other Sheep Kenya Coordinator facilitated on "African Culture and sexuality" said that Africans do not like talking openly on issues of sex. But the traditional African dancing styles are full of sexy tones and styles. The best example is Isukuti dance among the Luhyias and the Bukusu songs that are too sexy. "Sex is sweet and it should be discussed openly without fear in both our communities and religious institutions. I would love to see a minister preaching a message and teaching on sexuality in the church".
He said that we need to understand the cultural world of the bible before using clobber passages to condemn the LGBTQ in our society and religious institutions. Let us understand the historical and cultural context of these inspired biblical books and our diverse interpretations. "We are not living in the times of the Jewish Code of Holiness but during the time of the grace and love of Christ". He said that Other Sheep Kenya will peacefully spread the message of inclusiveness and love of Christ for LGBTQ in their respective faith institutions in Kenya. Discrimination and isolation is sin. "We cannot win the total war on HIV/AIDS in Africa if we cannot address holistically the issue of LGBTQ through advocacy and affirmative action".
There were certain African cultural practices that are very close to gayism. Among the Akamba and Luo in Kenya, when a woman is barren and her husband dies without having children. The widow will marry another woman and traditionally pay dowry. This relationship is referred to as "husband and wife". The "wife" will be free to get children from any man but the children born are for the "widow/husband".
A participant gave an example of a female teacher whose body was still in the mortuary due to some legal tussle over her traditional burial place. She was a lesbian and got married to a man to please her family, society and the church. However, she moved out of the marriage since she lacked happiness and love from a same sex partner. She got a same sex partner who was a lesbian business lady. Later on she died. She was living with her female spouse and the traditional customary law and Kenyan law does not recognize her as a spouse and therefore she cannot be allowed to bury her.
Mrs. Anne Baraza, (Riruta United Methodist Women President), Other Sheep Advisory Counselor said that discrimination based on the basis of race, tribe, religion and sexual orientation is unethical and unacceptable. "We have to learn tolerance for diversity in our religious institutions and society."
She said that pastors should know that they have an ethical and moral obligation to address gay and lesbian issues in an affirming manner. It is the responsibility of any counselor to take steps necessary to eliminate any forms of stigma and isolation since some youth have committed suicide due to their sexual orientation. She said that many people think that homosexuals need to be cured. This is not possible since various international researches done by reputable organizations have shown that sexual orientation cannot be changed even through therapy.
Her work experience with Parents, Friends of Lesbian and Gay (PFLAG) shows that LGBTQ struggle to "come out" and mostly decide to live in the closet due to fear and stigma. Even family members can be a nightmare to LGBTI persons since they feel their family lineage can be stigmatized. Religious institutions have been on the forefront of propagating homophobia by using the weapon of clobber passages.
A female participant who is Counseling teacher in one of the schools in Kisumu said that the seminar was an eye-opener since teachers in Kenyan schools are ill-equipped to handle LGBTQ students. A male student came to her reporting a case of a colleague who was gay. She counseled the gay student and told him to pour cold water on his genitals whenever he felt an erection attracted to same-sex relationship. She advised the gay student to make a difference by performing excellently in his academic work. The gay student broke an academic record by scoring high grades. He joined one of the top national schools in Kenya. His career ambition is to be a neurosurgeon.
Peter Wanyama ( Anglican), Other Sheep Kenya Treasurer said that Other Sheep Kenya will continue contacting seminars on capacity building for the clergy and laity on issues of religion and LGBTI issues in Africa. He requested the society, church and individuals to stop oppression prejudice and hate crimes against LGBTI. "We need religious and social justice for all"
August 6, 2009 – The New York Times
Kenya’s Volatile Politics Shadow Clinton
by Jeffrey Gettleman
Nairobi, Kenya — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first full day in Africa, like much of the rest of her seven-nation tour, was supposed to be about bolstering trade and friendship with important allies. But wherever Mrs. Clinton turned during her visit to Kenya, she kept bumping into the country’s combustible politics.
In the morning, she delivered a lengthy policy speech about America’s new approach to aid in Africa, saying the United States wanted to channel more development dollars to agriculture and infrastructure and bolster support for African entrepreneurs. “We want to be your partner, not your patron,” she said.
But as soon as she finished, Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, took the lectern and made not-so-vague references to the bloody political crisis that convulsed Kenya last year and cost him the job that many people here believe was rightly his. “In Africa, in many countries, elections are never won, they are rigged,” Mr. Odinga said, drawing a long, uncomfortable laugh. He then cracked a grin, paused for a moment, and went on to introduce the man widely accused of stealing the election from him, Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki.
Some of the headlines greeting Mrs. Clinton that morning raised the issue even more squarely, focusing on the pressure America has put on Kenya to set up a special tribunal to try the perpetrators of the election-driven bloodshed last year, in which more than 1,000 people were killed. “Clinton Lands as U.S. Breathes Fire,” one said. “Quit Lecturing Africa on Politics, Says Raila,” another said. Despite the insistence of its own citizens and Western donors, the Kenyan government has rejected a separate tribunal, saying it will try perpetrators through its existing institutions, which are notoriously corrupt and ineffective.
“We are waiting; we are disappointed,” Mrs. Clinton said at a news conference. This may be a theme of her Africa mission: how to use the United States’ enormous leverage on the continent to hold African leaders accountable for the reforms their own people are urging, while still trying to come across as a friend. Mrs. Clinton’s next stops — South Africa, Angola, Congo and Nigeria — are countries that are both friendly and at times prickly. They admire the United States as a bastion of prosperity and opportunity, but resent neocolonialism and being told what to do.
In Africa, Mrs. Clinton and the United States find themselves trying to squeeze between recalcitrant leaders and a populace eager for change and often in harmony with American values. Analysts say that with billions of dollars in foreign aid, a legacy of involvement in Africa and a new president of Kenyan heritage, the United States is positioned, possibly more than ever, to play a guiding role in Africa. But it is often a delicate balancing act, and as Kenya showed, it can get awkward.
Later Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton toured an agricultural research center with William Samoei Ruto, Kenya’s agriculture minister, by her side. Mr. Ruto delivered a velvety smooth, 10-minute speech, packed with facts and figures, all without glancing at any notes. But Mr. Ruto is also one of the prime suspects in the post-election violence, a divisive figure considered by many Kenyans to be an ethnic warlord. Kenyan human rights groups recently named him as a suspect who could be hauled off to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Many of the veteran American diplomats aware of Mr. Ruto’s reputation in Kenya were uneasy about the apparent chumminess on display, especially in front of a bank of television cameras. “There was a lot of back and forth about his participation today, for all the obvious reasons,” one American diplomat confided on the condition of anonymity.
But at the end of the afternoon, Mrs. Clinton stood with Mr. Ruto on a small stage bathed in the warm equatorial sun. Mr. Ruto cast her a smile and said: “Almost 50 percent of my senior staff have been trained courtesy of the United States government. It’s only myself who hasn’t been trained in the U.S.” Mrs. Clinton beamed back. “There’s still time, minister,” she said, and rubbed him jovially on the back.
No issue in Kenya is trickier — and potentially more violent — than the question of what to do about Mr. Ruto and others suspected of perpetrating the post-election violence. Kenyan human rights groups and Western diplomats say that unless Kenya ends its long culture of impunity, the ethnic and political tensions that tore this country apart last year will explode during the next major election, in 2012.
But trouble could come sooner. Ethnic militias are already rearming themselves in the hinterland, and as some Kenyans say, there is not so much peace right now as a cease-fire. Mrs. Clinton hinted at the complexities on Wednesday. “I know this is not easy,” she said at a news conference. “How do you go about prosecuting the perpetrators without engendering more violence?”
But when asked what specific actions the American government would take if the Kenyan government failed to prosecute the killers in last year’s mayhem — sanctions? travel bans? a reduction in aid? — Mrs. Clinton said only that “we believe this is an issue best handled by the Kenyans themselves.”
Alan Cowell contributed reporting from London.
06 August 2009 – Toward Freedom
Sex Workers’ Rights in Kenya: "It’s Better to Be a Thief Than Gay in Kenya"
by Siena Anstis
John Mathenke was once arrested for being gay but, after failing to pay the customary bribe, was forced to have sex with the policeman. He had an orgy with a priest who publicly excoriates homosexuality, along with five other Masaai boys. And his Arab trader clients curse him during the day, but come back looking for sex at night. Such is the life of a homosexual prostitute in Nairobi, Kenya.
"It’s better to be a thief than gay in Kenya," Mathenke says. Both are often punished by death, but being the latter means never revealing yourself to the public and remaining perpetually closeted. It means dealing with homophobes at day and pleasuring them at night. In Kenya, statutes dating from the colonial period dictate prison sentences of up to 14 years for male homosexuality (there are no laws targeting lesbians). These laws are further influenced by powerful Christian and Muslim religious leaders who publicly condemn homosexuality. In turn, homophobia towards the LGBT community in Kenya is widespread, and as calls to decriminalize homosexuality grow, the backlash is strong. In late April, one woman was hit outside a bar with a bottle for being a lesbian.
Born into a poor household in Kenya’s central province, Mathenke never finished primary school. In 2002, after spending several years as a houseboy, he was influenced by other dream-chasers moving to Nairobi, and left to the capital city. He paid a barber $30 to be trained as a haircutter. His perfect English eventually landed him a job selling textbooks in a lavish Westlands shopping center. This was the scene of his first homosexual experience. While, subconsciously, he knew it was a part of him – he says he used to wear long shirts when he was small and tied a rope around his waist to pretend it was a dress – it had yet to be experienced.
A Frenchman would come in, day after day, he says. He would open thick African history books and look at pictures of naked men. He bought many books; some that Mathenke would help him carry to the car. He never thought much of this flirtation, until the man took him out for dinner. Inebriated, they went back to the Frenchman’s home and had sex. The man took him home almost every night after that. In the same store, Mathenke encountered the priest with whom he had a five-person orgy.
At this time, Mathenke was discovering his homosexual identity and decide to move to Mombasa, an area rumored friendlier to homosexuals. $700 in his pocket, he put himself up in a hotel. Eventually the money dried out and he was left desperate. He went to Mercury, a local bar, and was offered money for sex with an older European.
"When you’ve had sex with someone once, they don’t want you again," explained Mathenke. Customers became few and far between and he continued to sleep on park benches, washing in the seawater in the morning. He also faced continued stigma: "Arab traders would insult us at day, and come looking for sex at night." A lot of his clients were – and are – popular religious leaders who would curse homosexuals in public and find pleasure in paid homosexual company in private.
Mathenke eventually returned to Nairobi, where he settled in with a new boyfriend. He continued to see clients from the big hotels: the Hilton, the Serena, the Intercontinental. He would hang out in the gay hot spots with his friends, some who continued to sleep on benches, in Uhuru park for example, near the Hilton. He had yet to use a condom.
Community outreach by Sex Workers Outreach Program (SWOP) in Nairobi eventually led him to his "second-home." Three weeks ago, after being provided with free health services and counseling, he tested positive for HIV/AIDS. So did his partner. He tells me, matter of fact, "Now that we know this, we are talking more and confiding in each other." He has also started using protection with his clients. In SWOP, he found inspiration and acceptance. Gloria Gakaki, a social worker at SWOP, explains that "it is not the general population that needs to be addressed. It’s easier to empower the individual, make them feel as human beings, giving people a safe place."
Supported by the organization, Mathenke has started bringing together groups of young homosexual prostitutes and helping them form a community based organization, Health Option for Young Men on HIV/AIDS. Since he can’t register a homosexual organization with the government, he has to use the name as a cover. He is teaching these young men – some only 12 years old – about using condoms and lubricant when having sex with men.
According to the BBC, gay men in Africa have 10 times higher HIV rates because of homophobia. In Kenya, the situation is no different: "People think you have been cursed," Mathenke explains, "It’s painful, we wish we had freedom." Being a prostitute and gay is a double negative explains Gakaki, "It is a hidden population." Since many stigmatized homosexuals in Kenya marry and have children as an identity cover, unless they are reached by HIV/AIDS education, the HIV rate will continue to increase, not only within the homosexual population, but also across Kenya.
While the government has long been reluctant to address the role of homosexuality in increasing HIV/AIDS rates, there have been some positive changes over the years. Gakaki highlights the brave role of Dr. Nicholas Maraguri, Head of the National AIDS and STD Control Program (NASCOP), who is pushing the government to address the link between HIV, homosexuality and homophobia. Maraguri has also been meeting directly with the male sex worker population to get a more in-depth idea of where the problems lie.
August 17th, 2009 – Global Voices On-Line
Haute Haiku from Kenya
by Rebekah Heacock
Haute Haiku is one of Global Voices’ newest Sub-Saharan African authors. He writes about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) blogosphere in Africa, including bloggers’ thoughts on HIV transmission among men who have sex with men, and how gays and lesbians are treated in East Africa. Haute also blogs about being a gay man in Africa on his personal blog, Single gay life in Kenya.
In many Sub-Saharan African countries, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by sentences ranging from payment of fines to several years or life in prison. According to the International Gay & Human Rights Council more than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts, and across the continent people are subject to both physical attacks and discrimination.
Though life in Kenya is reportedly becoming easier for gay people, there is still legislation in place that says homosexual men (not women) can be sent to prison for up to 14 years. In countries like Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania, laws like these have been in place since colonial times, while in Burundi a ban on homosexuality was only just introduced in April of this year.
Consequently, many gays and lesbians throughout Africa live in fear of having their sexual orientation discovered. A small number make use of blogs to help spread knowledge and understanding of what it means to be gay.
August 31, 2009 – Global Voices
Online Campaigns To Combat Spread Of HIV/AIDS
All across the world stigma and discrimination against those who carry the HIV virus is rampant. In many countries cultural practices and social norms hinder people from discussing these issues. To combat the spread of AIDS, and to make people aware of the disease and protective measures, many organizations and activists worldwide are engaged with innovative and localized campaigns and initiatives that use internet and citizen media tools to augment their cause.
Kenya: Repacted  was formed in 2001 by young theater artists from the Nakuru Players Theater Club in Kenya and deals with behavioral changes among Kenyan youths on social issues like reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. The project employs magnet theater , their forum theater initiative, to have a forum to discuss issues that people will not have discussed in their day to day life, not even with family because of taboo and cultural practices. Here is a video depicting their mobilization exercises:
Repacted – Mobilization  from eduardo ávila  on Vimeo .
With the help of a Rising Voices micro-grant the Repacted members are also being trained to blog  to share their issues with the world. Here is what some of the members are discussing:
MCCJEX discusses about the practices in Kenyan schools :
(The practice of) sex in school is high that now-a-days its more played than any other games in the field. Youths between 7 to 20 years know it better than any other person.[…] No single girl or boy is found without relationship. Towards this, I think condom should be distributed in schools.
September 15, 2009 – Relief Web
See 2009 New York Times video of this story
Note: this report was written in 2006 by Releif Web but the situaion is continuing today and is even worse.
Kenya is facing a disaster of immense proportions affecting a population close to 2.5 million as of December 2005, a figure that has since been revised upwards to 4.5 million people. This is due to unprecedented drought (see video) that has wiped out between 30% (in less severe areas) and 70% of livestock in the mostly Arid and semi arid lands (ASAL) (1).
The affected area stretches from the North-western border with Uganda and Southern Sudan to the North-east horn neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia down to the plains in Eastern and Rift valley provinces inhabited by among others the world renowned Maasai pastoralists-see map below. The President of Kenya has since declared this drought a national disaster and appealed for emergency assistance.
The Kenyan government is trying to mitigate the drought’s impact on livestock by buying cattle from pastoralists. The weak ones are slaughtered to provide meat to the people while the much stronger ones are stocked by government through the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) as core future breeding stock for the pastoralists. However very little funds have been allocated for this exercise, not to mention that it also started late when most livestock had been lost due to the drought. Pastoralists also hesitate to exchange their cattle for money and tend to wait until the cattle are too weak.
It is worth noting that over 90% of the 200,000 primary and secondary school going children in the affected areas have not reported back to school despite the opening of schools in early January this year. This is primarily due to lack of school fees as their parents have no livelihood to support their families let alone afford school fees.
Although the government has directed that school administrations allow students back in class without school fees, the respective administrations have no way of running the institutions without money and so many schools are still closed two weeks into the first semester of the academic year. This has the potential of reversing the gains made in the education sector.
But deeper analysis shows that free education may not be the issue since even primary education which is free has suffered a great deal as pupils migrate with their parents in search of food and water for themselves and their livestock. Girls are disproportionately affected since culturally, they are expected to help their mothers look for water and attend to other domestic chores. In addition, scarcity of water presents a big challenge for girls in their puberty experiencing menses as sanitation is key to their reproductive health during that period. Most girls have therefore been forced to drop out of school.
All water streams and wells have dried up leading to a very severe shortage. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimated that 12.7 million dollars would be needed urgently to provide for water alone for livestock and people in the worst affected area of North Eastern province of Kenya.
The Kenya government has estimated that it will cost 28 billion Kenya shillings (USD 373million) to effectively deal with the situation (2), yet only 8 billion shillings, or USD 107 million, has so far been mobilised.
As of August 2005, the government estimated that 20% of the children in Turkana, Mandera and Wajir districts were malnourished with higher but unestablished percentage expected in the districts of Garissa, Marsabit, Isiolo and Tana River. Today, the situation is worse with over 37 districts reporting severe malnutrition among children.
September 7th, 2009 – Global Voices
Africa: Preventing blackmail and extortion against gays
by Haute Haiku
Blackmail and extortion of gay people visiting or living in Africa has proven to be a lucrative business for scammers. Bloggers in Ghana and Kenya have taken matters into their own hands by shining a spotlight on the fakers. Blackmail and extortion has proven to be a lucrative business towards gay people in Africa. Internet scams have become rampant as more gays are trying to come to terms with their sexuality.
The “unfamiliar gays” or the “newly coming out” are the target for this activity as they are lured into what is referred to as a “honey trap.” This is when unsuspecting persons are lured into dark alleys or traps with promises of sex or sexual favors, but actually meet with wicked characters who threaten, blackmail and sometimes assault.
This always starts with visits to the internet in search of love on dating websites, without suspecting that the alluring profiles on most of the sites are fake.
Read entire article here
September 15 2009 – Daily Nation
Gay body decries harsh laws in HIV infections
by Carol Rwenji
Prohibitive laws are causing a high rate of HIV infections among the members of the gay community, an organisation has said. Ishtar- MSM want to be included in the government’s strategic plan on HIV and Aids. “The government has not been including us in previous strategic plans and we hope for inclusion in the next one,” Mr Benjamin Ndung’u, an official said on Tuesday.
He expressed optimism that the gay community will be included in the next strategic plan on HIV by the government despite homosexuality being illegal in Kenya. Mr Ndung’u noted that gay men are among the minorities yet they are one of the people who are at a higher risk of getting the disease. He further pushed for equal access to health care for gay members affected by the scourge. Mr Ndung’u was speaking on behalf of Ishtar MSM director Mr Peter Njane at the launch of the Kenya Aids NGOs Consortium (KANCO) strategic plan for 2010 to 2014 launch.
The minister for Public Health and Sanitation Mrs Beth Mugo lauded the launch noting that the strategic plan will guide the NGOs consortium in their contribution towards the national response to HIV and Aids and Tuberculosis (TB). Dr Rachel Kamau, a coordinator for the prevention of HIV and Aids infections in the ministry, read the minister’s speech. “The organisation works to provide leadership and capacity building among civil societies and other stakeholders to respond to the diseases at a community level,” the minister said.
She said that 7.4 percent of Kenyans aged between 15 and 64 years are HIV positive with a rise in numbers among those previously thought to be low risk. According to statistics made available by Mr Joshua Gitonga of the National Aids Control Council (NACC), a high rise of new infections have been found to be of heterosexual couples at 41.1 per cent. Casual heterosexual relationships, he said, are at 20.3 percent while infections from health facilities and drug abuse using injections stands at 2.8 and 3.8 per cent respectively.
“NACC hopes to reduce new infections by 50 per cent, aids related mortality by 25 per cent and further reduce the socio economic impact of the pandemic on the society,” he said. Kanco executive director Mr Allan Ragi stated that the strategic plan will aim at strengthening community and institutional systems and also improve policies on HIV and TB. The strategic plan, he added, hopes to prevent new HIV and TB infections, reduce related illnesses and deaths and alleviate the effects of the epidemics.
9 October 2009 – madikazemi.blogspot.com
Kenya attack on Gays
by Ken Were-Project Manager, Team Africa, and Dennis Hambridge Global coordinator
Kenyan police are investigating an assault incident where a gay activist was allegedly attacked by a mob of his neighbours in Nairobe,because he publicly expressed his opinion to support gay rights. He was attacked from his house in the early hours on the night Saturday 4th October.
A police source told Gay Activists Alliance –Team Africa on the phone that “Yes, we have received information that Peter Wanyama was assaulted. We are doing our job now. This is a serious offence to harm someone’s health” he said. Efforts to reach the Nairobi provincial police boss were fruitless as he was constantly reported out of office on official assignment. Currently, Wanyama and his partner are housed at the Gay Activist Alliance –GAA-Team Africa premise in Nairobi, under the care of Marsha Makatini, a Transgender rights activist with the other activists of the organisation.
Marsha is calling on well wishers to support Wanyama so as to get a new safe home with his partner. The Organisation’s global coordinator, Dennis Hambridge, who inccidently was in Nairobi, Kenya, when the incident happened roundly condemned the incident and called on the Kenyan police to conduct a credible investigation into the attack. “ No one should be attacked because he is a heterosexual or homosexual. Sexual orientations is a matter of human rights We want LGBTI organisations to step up their campaigns on advocacy and awareness to the society on the LGBTI rights ,” Hambridge advised.
Peter Wanyama, a human rights activist working with, The Other Sheep – Kenya, an LGBTI Christian human rights advocacy organisation, recorded a statement with police in Nairobi, after a section of his neighbours allegedly reined on him with blows and kicks accusing him of being gay. He frantically pleaded with the charged mob of neighbours, mostly men to spare him but none would hear. He called out their names but they continued beating him senselessly until they bundled him back to his house, apparently leaving him for dead. His partner was not at home during the incident.
He sustained head, eye injuries and suffered facial bruises during the night attack at his residential estate home, some five kilometres from the main city centre of Nairobi . Three female neighbours came to the rescue .They called one of Wanyama’s friends to come and take him to the the hospital after locking him in a room, to bar the way of wild male neighbours who were baying for his blood and from further pouncing on him.
Rev. Micheal Kimindu, head of Metropolitan Community Church , a Christian LGBTI organisation in East Africa , took the victim to a local hospital, where he was treated and discharged . Rev Kimundu condemned the incident saying police must take stern action against those who caused grievous harm to Wanyama , only for disclosing to them his sexual orientation. “We must follow this case to the later. This is grave abuse of fundamental human rights and the LGBTI community must confront this with all their solidarity,”Rev. Kimindu lamented.
While the leader of The Other Sheep – Kenya, Rev. John Makokha called for a thorough investing into the matter saying those who attacked activist Wanyama must be arrested and face the law. Rev. Makokha said they have already engaged a lawyer to peruse the case. Wanyama told the Mask, that troubles started at around 11.20pm ,Kenyan time on Saturday 4th October 09, when a male neighbour, aged 26- years -old walked into his house and engaged him into a discussion on human rights in light to LGBTI community.
“When I told this young man about the rights for the LGBTI to live freely, he stood up and started shouting at the top of his voice calling his brothers and other relatives of his at the estate to come and beat me up because of my stand on homosexuals and their rights . They rushed to my room pushed and shoved me before throwing me out of the door to the veranda, I went unconscious, he narrated the ordeal on bed with a swollen eye."
"In pain from the mob attack", he continued, "I thank some of my female neighbours for their candid dare to who tried to wrestle five men who were had stepped on my head .They told me that I should be killed because of my opinion." His assailants also smashed the glass of the door when they tried to forced entry into Wanyamas’s rented home to further attack him, but they were restrained by the estate caretaker.
The victim said they have been staying together with neighbours peacefully and wondered why one day some of them turned against him to terminate his life . He says its “very hard to belief what happened to him. We have been chatting happily with my neighbours, sometimes eating together,” He added as tears drenched his cheeks .
Rev.Makokha has called for help to the activist and his partner. “I talked to Wanyama he is traumatised and he need care and support. I have guided and counseled him and the partner ,but they need at least to move out of Nairobi to go and relax in a quiet environment as they recollect for life again, “Rev. Makokha noted.
Ken Were said:
"The GAAI supports a safe house in Kenya, several GAAI-team Africa activists live in and takes care of the home, due to homophobia and transphobia, abuse and attack it is extremely unlikely to get employment in Kenya if you are known LGBTI, poverty is rife regardless, and HIV/AIDS accounts for an estimated 3 million people, health officials report that 87% of the population are unaware of their HIV/AIDs status
Four days on after the attack, Wanyama is still in the care of the GAAI-Team Africa, shocked, battered and bruised, but coming to terms with the attack, he and his partner are unlikely to be able to return to their home, and will stay with the GAAI-Team Africa until he is able to find a safe home to go to.
In Kenyan law, Being Gay is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment, however not recently exercised. Sodomy is punishable by up to 18 years imprisonment
14 October 2009 – Behind The Mask
New Coalition To Address MSM Issues In Africa
by Simangele Mzizi (BTM Intern)
South Africa – In their effort to step up the fight against the high HIV prevalence amongst men who have sex with other men (MSM) some concerned men have formed a coalition titled African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) aiming to increase visibility of issues affecting MSM in Africa. Established in March this year, “AMSHeR was formed to strengthen the capacity of national agencies and individuals working to improve legislation and programming related to MSM’s sexual and reproductive health”, said Joel Nana, Executive Officer for AMSHeR.
The coalition consists of 15 organisations from 13 African countries working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, mainstream HIV and human rights organisations that work to address the vulnerability of MSM to HIV. “We intend to extend invitations to other countries and organisations to ensure the visibility and representativeness of all aspects of MSM and transgender lives in the continent”, Nana said.
Currently AMSHeR is hosted by OUT LGBT Well-being, a South African LGBT health organisation based in Pretoria. As a regional coalition of MSM and LGBTI led organisations, AMSHeR also aims to advocate for the elimination of discriminatory laws and policies affecting MSM. Nana pointed out that, AMSHeR’s development process has been divided into two phases and the first phase started on 1 October this year and will end on 30 March next year.
“During this period, AMSHeR intends to develop its management mechanisms, establish its administrative systems, acquire a legal identity, develop its strategic plan and strengthen its funding base for the implementation phase or second phase”, said Nana. According to a 2006-2007 HIV and AIDS report by UNAIDS to the UN General Assembly Special Session, MSM are a group that has long been overlooked with no documented evidence to confirm their existence.
Meanwhile studies show that research on MSM in Africa has been limited and largely focused on the heterosexual spread of HIV and as a result leaves MSM highly stigmatised and hard to reach, even though this population is particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. The executive committee of the coalition includes Samuel Matsikure from the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, Steave Nemande from Alternatives-Cameroun, David Kuria from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and Chivuli Ukwimi from Zambia.
October 20, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Gays In Rural Kenya In Need Of HIV And AIDS Services
by Ken Were (BTM Correspondent)
Kenya – Mary Makhokha, Executive Director of a health and economic empowerment community organization, Rural Economic and Investment Programme (REEP) in Busia and Butula Districts of Kenya is planning to face that country’s government asking for voluntary counseling and testing centers to be opened specifically for gays and lesbians in that area.
This, according to Makhokha was motivated by a visit by nine gay partners to her centre seeking VCT services, something she says is an indication that Kenya has large populations of gays in rural areas who require medical support to prevent the spread of HIV and Aids among themselves.
“They do not know what to do and where to go because in rural areas no one speaks about these kinds of relationships and lifestyles. What society knows is that such people are supposed to be killed. This should not be the case. Let the government of Kenya use its resources to set up VCT centres in the country side for the LGBTI community and have doctors for these needs”, Makokha suggested. She estimates that within the districts, one village has more than ten gays between the ages of 16 and 25 who live in the closet. She says some of them are willing to work with her on VCT matters, on condition that their safety is guaranteed.
Makokha agrees “our constitution does not recognise the LGBT community as it is in many African countries. Yes, it is illegal, but being illegal doesn’t mean the gay community is not there. The government and other NGOs should not turn a blind eye to these people. They are human beings, we leave with them, they are our sons and daughters, our husbands and friends.”
“We should not leave in denial of this and we should stop blaming the West of influencing our children, this has everything to do with gender orientations”, Mrs Makokha stated. Not only relying on government, Makokha said her organisation intends to set up a gay VCT centre in the region.
“I want to approach the government authority in charge of health services in the region to request for an establishment of a government gay friendly VCT in the area. This will encourage rural gay people to come up and to benefit from these vital services. It is a shame for the government of Kenya to keep announcing its big plans of fighting HIV and AIDS on all fronts when it is leaving out the marginalised groups in rural areas”, Makokha lamented adding that she intends to partner with several NGOs providing medical care in the region to achieve her mission of establishing a gay VCT centre in the rural parts of Western Kenya.
The province has a population of 9 million people and is the second largest region in population after the central province. Makokha said that she will not fear the communities’ homophobic attacks but instead she will educate the society about the importance of fighting the pandemic among all in the community and about a need to uphold and respect fundament human rights. The government of Kenya has set up VCT centres at its hospitals. Several NGO s and Churches have set up similar centres..
In Nairobi, there are two lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex VCT centres one is run by an organisation calles Liverpool and the second one is supported by the Nairobi University School of Medicine. Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) also offers VCT services to the LGBIT community in Nairobi capital.
October 21, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Gays Cough Big Bucks To Stay In The Closet
by Lesego Tlhwale (BTM Intern)
Kenya – Blackmail and money extortion are increasing in Kenya as gays are forced to pay some scheming members of society to keep mum about their sexual orientation. Other Sheep-Kenya, a gay rights Christian organisation, has reported that one of its members became the latest casualty to the scam of being blackmailed by his neighbour.
The victim who requested to remain anonymous told Other Sheep-Kenya that he was currently visited by his neighbour who asked him many things about homosexuality. “He was very friendly and so we talked about life in general and homosexuality. With time, he told me he was working for an organisation [which he named], that offers health programs for the gay community.” He added that the neighbour questioned him about the existence of gays in Kenya and about the gay life in general.
Having gathered substantial information, the neighbour allegedly started threatening the victim. “He said he was trying to gather information to confirm that I was gay because there should be no gays in society and that he was going to take action, unless I give him money.” When the victim did not cooperate, the neighbour allegedly started assaulting him.
Such incidents, according to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists, are widespread and have distressed many members of the gay community in Kenya. Lourence Misedah of ISHTAR, a gay rights organisation in Nairobi said numbers of gays have been blackmailed but fail to report the cases for fear of being exposed.
“It [blackmail] also occurs by people working closely with members of the gay community who identify some of the targets and then start working with the police, or issue threats to out these people if they do not offer certain amounts [of money] requested”, Misedah said. He pointed out that one of the reasons for such manipulation is the fact that the majority of LGBTI people in the country are still closeted due to trans and homophobia in society.
“Even when they know the law they [victims] would not want to be humiliated further by following the cases up.” Even though he said most cases go unreported, Misedah acknowledged support from the Kenyan Human Rights Commission on reported cases. He however said that there is still lack of awareness within the police force about the laws and that this results in further stigma and discrimination.
“The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALK), through its different partners and networks, has tried to address this issue but is currently facing challenges following up the cases fully, because people involved opt not to further pursue the cases, fearing the repercussions”, Missedah concluded.
29 October 2009 – BBC
Kenya to launch homosexual census
Kenya is to carry out a census of its gay population in an effort to bolster the fight against HIV/AIDS – despite homosexuality being against the law. Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya’s Aids prevention programme Nascop, told the BBC it was vital that the government reached out to the gay community. He said gay people suffered from a lack of information about the disease.
But analysts say many gay people will be afraid to come forward in a country where homosexuality can result in jail. Mr Muraguri conceded that an accurate count was unlikely. But he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that getting a clearer idea of the number of gay people would be a huge help with targeted interventions such as provision of condoms. He said the survey would involve gay men identifying each other, and officials carrying out HIV tests and providing along with information on safe sexual practice.
"Kenyans cannot actually afford to say that the gay community are isolated somewhere in the corner – they are part of our lives," he said. "This group must be reached with information and services so they know how to protect themselves from getting infected."
Analysts say Kenya has made progress in its fight against HIV/AIDS – one-in-10 people had the virus in the late 1990s, a rate that has now fallen to 6%. “ There’s no information here about safety measures ”, Gay rights activist Peter Njane The BBC’s Gladys Njoroge in Nairobi says the census, which will begin in June next year, will be the first of its kind in Africa. Gay rights activist Peter Njane told the BBC he was optimistic that the survey would play a key role in the fight against HIV.
"Most of the gay community think that having sex with men is safe. There’s no information here about safety measures," he said. But Kenyans are divided over the survey’s impact, with some Nairobi residents saying they did not believe it would help control the spread of Aids. Gay Kenyans told the BBC they would be willing to be counted – but only if their identities were protected. Homosexual activity is punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Kenya.
November 20, 2009 – Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya
Gays Say Draft Constitution Ignored Them
by Emeka Mayaka Gekara
Not long after the uproar over the marriage of a Kenyan gay couple in London, the gay community in Kenya is coming out of the closet and agitating for rights they feel are ignored by the draft constitution. Spokespersons for the secretive and tightly-knit community say the draft promoted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Rev Michael Kimindu, who runs a church for gay people in Nairobi, accused the Committee of Experts of lacking "expertise in courage".
Shoot down draft
He says gay rights should have been included in the draft for discussion by Kenyans. During the furore over the London wedding, one of the experts Otiende Amollo disclosed that the committee had rejected suggestions by British MPs to recognise and protect the rights of homosexuals in the draft. "If we did so, a majority of Kenyans would reject the draft during the forthcoming referendum," he said.
But Rev Kimindu, a retired army major, reckons that Kenyans who are likely to shoot down the draft over the matter were relatives of the gays and lesbians. He describes the committee’s decision as "homophobic". According to Mr David Kuria, the coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, homosexuals should have been "expressly listed" among the minority and marginalised groups deserving of special protection. He told the Saturday Nation on Friday that the experts should also have indicated that no Kenyan should be discriminated because of his or her sexual orientation.
The present constitution is silent on the issue, but the draft is clear that the right to marriage is only in respect of couples of opposite gender. "We are not interested in same sex-marriages," Mr Kuria said. "We only want to be allowed to access medical care, education and jobs without discrimination."
Rev Kimindu, an ordained Anglican priest, is the head of the Other Sheep – East Africa, a worldwide Christian organisation dedicated to empowering gays and lesbians. The gay population, according to Rev Kimindu, is the "other sheep" that Jesus, a shepherd, was searching for in the book of John (Chapter 10:16). Kimindu, 57, is also the head of the local branch of the Metropolitan Community Church which was founded by gay Christians.
Because of his links with the gay movement, his attachment at St Luke’s Church Kenyatta, which is run by the All Saints Cathedral was "stopped" last year. Mr Kimindu describes his church in Nairobi’s Imara Daima estate as a sanctuary for lesbian and gay Kenyans. Kimindu who retired from the military in 2007, boasts of 22-member flock. It is a unique fellowship of university students, middle-level professionals and clergy all aged between 23 and 40.
Though he works with the gay community, Mr Kimindu says he is heterosexual.
November 27, 2009 – Capital FM
Include gays in HIV campaigns, Kemri boss says
by Judie Kaberia
Nairobi, Kenya – The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) says the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot be successful if homosexuals are not included in the campaigns. KEMRI Ethics Committee Chairman Ambrose Rachier said 15 percent of new HIV infections in Kenya are among same sex couples some of whom are also in relationships with people of the opposite sex.
“You do not ignore a population because of their status in law. Even in prison, men are having sex with men. They have rights to health too and you cannot in your HIV interventions afford to ignore the group,” Rachier said. He estimated a fourth of Kenya’s population to be gay.
Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya official David Kuria said the movement he leads has eight groups under its umbrella with five of them registered as a lawful organizations. He said the most active groups are those in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu but acknowledged that groups in Eldoret were also emerging actively. Mr Kuria said due to the increasing numbers of membership in their movement, plans were ongoing to establish a national movement to bring all gays in the country together.
He said they were actively involved in responding to HIV/AIDS and fighting for their rights which have seriously been violated since homosexuality remains widely opposed in Kenya. “The groups focus on different things including health issues like HIV/AIDS, human rights and legal issues in relation to changing of the law,” he said. He also said most of their members had relationships with women. Despite being gay, Mr Kuria said he was married to a woman due to pressure from the society.
But Mr Rachier says the country is in great danger because of ignoring the gay population saying spread of HIV/AIDS is great as most of these people end up operating as bisexuals. He said there was a contradiction in the Constitution since it called for protection of privacy, right to life and confidentiality among many others in the Bill of Rights yet it also criminalises same sex affairs which if one is found guilty of practicing or promoting can result in a jail term of 14 years.
On the other hand the Constitution condemns discrimination due to sex, race, or religion. “Same sex is an offence in this country, they call it having sex against the order of nature. But when you look at the Bill of Rights, there is a contradiction, because gay rights are discriminated,” he said. The government earlier in the month said it would a research to establish the number of homosexuals, heterosexuals and lesbians in the country.
The data will be used in the HIV/AIDS interventions. Currently the country remains highly opposed to gay relationships despite rising cases of such affairs.
November 30, 2009 – Daily Nation
Why HIV spreads faster among gays
by Millicent Mwololo
As the world marks the World Aids Day, the gay community in Kenya is at the centre of the theories about new HIV infections. While there is a general concern over the high cases of new HIV infections among married couples, the fact that 60 per cent of men having sex with men (MSM) in Kenya are also having sex with women, appears to make them vulnerable to two sources of infection. “These are married men, perhaps with a girlfriend, but are also involved in sexual relations with men,” explained David Kuria, manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALK). The coalition brings together five homosexual groups.
Mr Kuria is also concerned that if programmes to fight Aids are not extended to gays, then, “the war against Aids in Kenya may be difficult to win.” In some places the virus is circulating fast among married men in gay relationships. “They either bring the virus with them into their network and circulate it, or carry it from their network to their spouses and girlfriends,” Mr Kuria said.
Unlike Europe and America where there is a difference in the type of HIV virus among homosexuals and heterosexual, in Kenya, the same type is spreading among both. This means that there is a lot of inter-phase between the two, he added. He cites a number of factors responsible, among them, lack of Aids programmes in Kenya that target sexual minorities. “Without information, our people imagine they are not vulnerable to HIV. They have not seen anything that tells them they are at risk,” he explained.
This ignorance among most gays and lesbians leads to unprotected sex. Mr Kuria says stigma and discrimination of homosexuals hinders them from getting medical treatment. “Whenever gays are infected, many delay going to hospital. They resort to self-treatment, and only seek proper medical care when the illness is at an advanced stage,” he said. This, he added, posed a big challenge in prevention and control of HIV virus.
Also, the chances of acquiring the virus are higher among individuals who are not on ARVs. Discrimination, which prevents HIV positive homosexuals from seeking healthcare fuels the spread of the virus. “In Nairobi the infection rate among married men is high as they actively interact among their network,” Mr Kuria said.
GALK, he said, was not interested in advancing the gay agenda or gay marriages as most people would think, “but to offer services to the homosexual community, something that cannot happen if it continues being criminalised.
Read Article HERE
December 23 2009 – Saturday Nation
Research: Kenya in denial over homosexuals
Research about homosexuality in Kenya suggests it’s not just a decadent foreign influence, and it’s not confined to tourists at the Coast. And one thing is certain: pretending it doesn’t exist has its consequences. It’s hard to imagine a Kenya where homosexuality is viewed as anything but a moral and religious abomination. The majority still link it to foreign influences or drug abuse, or dismiss it as a perverted habit practised in upper class social cliques. As the national debate intensifies, interviews with a few gay Kenyans, and five years of research conducted by the Kemri/Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi, challenge these bedrock cultural and religious beliefs around homosexuality.
Specifically, the research paints a picture of a nation in denial about the prevalence of homosexuality. It also warns of the consequences of adopting an “if you ignore it, it doesn’t exist” attitude where the spread of HIV is concerned, because religious and cultural norms drive the practice so far underground, heterosexuals may be at even greater risk. The research is yielding some surprising and sobering information about how the sexual practices of a few can have far-reaching implications.
In short, it’s quite likely that homosexuality in Kenya has already had a significant impact on the health and sexuality of the broader population. In fact, the 2007 Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (KAIS) found that 15 per cent of new HIV infections occur through homosexual activity. “The great question is, how do we prevent the spread of the disease in this minority but extremely high risk group when we won’t even communicate about it?” asks Dr Eduard Sanders who directs the Wellcome Trust research.
Craft a message
“While it might be easier to get to the male sex workers, how do we craft a message for their clients who go a long way to maintain their anonymity? The first step would be to overcome the stigma and our homophobia,” he says. The key to this issue is defining just who this elusive “client” is. Intriguingly, the perception that most men who pay for sex with Kenyan male sex workers are foreigners is false. You may be astonished that Kemri researchers found the majority (81 per cent) of male clients for Kenyan male sex workers were Kenyan.
And these male sex workers are generally mobile, selling their services to a diverse group of other men all over Kenya. The researchers identified 39 locations all over Kenya where men bought male sex, not just in the coastal areas, as is generally assumed.
On Kenya’s Coast, Kemri/Wellcome Trust researchers focused on the sexual practices of some of Kenya’s most “at risk” populations. They include commercial sex workers (both male and female), people who have had a sexually transmitted disease in the past, discordant couples (where one person is HIV-positive and the other is not) and men who have sex with men. Such are a particularly vulnerable group because they participate in the riskiest form of sexual contact for the transmission of HIV. And there’s another complicating factor; many of these men don’t consider themselves homosexual, further eroding a psychological connection to their activities and raising the stakes in terms of risk-taking.
The official tally from a Mombasa survey of male sex workers in 2007 stood at 739, though the actual figure could be much higher because many of these men avoid interacting with researchers. But despite their inherently higher physical risk of contracting HIV, the researchers found that condom and lubricant use among the male sex workers is low. For instance, 42 per cent of the male sex workers had not used a condom with their last male client. Overall, 48 per cent said their condom use was inconsistent.
Researchers attribute this low rate of condom use to what they called a “dismal” level of basic knowledge about HIV transmission and prevention. Many of them did not know that HIV could be spread through unprotected sex, and many said they didn’t use lubrication because it was too costly. It’s no wonder, then, that the 2007 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey found that the 15 per cent of all new HIV infections in Kenya are from men who have sex with men.
Read Article HERE