What is Gay and Lesbian Life Like in Kenya?
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gay woman. She says, “Being gay in this country isn’t exactly easy. It’s not as bad as in Uganda, but it’s still not easy. But you can actually pass. If you don’t make too much noise or stand out too much, then you can live comfortably. That is until the neighborhood finds out. Then you can’t really know what’s going to happen.”
To get a gay male perspective, we met with Solomon Wambua, Programs Officer of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), the countries largest LGBT organization. Solomon tells us that when he came out to his mother, “she told me that the devil is now living in our house. She said that she wasted money paying for my school fees. I tell others now that family can take away your school or kick you out. Before you come out of the closet, get your education."
He says, “Most parents try to contain it within the immediate family when they have a son or daughter who comes out. My mom was like, ‘I don’t have a problem with you, but what will the rest of the family say?’ Then came several debates about this being un-African and questions about whether or not I was raped as a child.” As of today, Solomon’s extended family still does not know about his sexual orientation.
Yet Solomon chooses to work at GALCK despite his own concern of whether or not he can find employment again after associating with a gay organization. There are no anti-discrimination laws around sexual orientation in the workplace when homosexual acts are illegal. He says, “People think when you are gay you are a pedophilia or commit sodomy. ”
When I asked Solomon about the number of gays incarcerated due to this penal code, he says, “Up to date, no case has been convicted of the penal code leading to actual incarceration. But it is used to extort money and blackmail people. It is used to discriminate and put lesbians and gays down.”
Organizations such as GALCK and Minority Women in Action are able to exist in Kenya despite the penal code. While there is no Pride parade or openly gay club, Solomon organizes community events such as World AIDS Day and the International Day Against Homophobia. The GALCK office remains open as a safe place for people to come read about gay topics, gain support from counselors, and hang out.
Solomon tells us, “the number of LGBT organizations grows every year.” Akinyi also tells us that thanks to the efforts of NGO’s, “People are now discussing it. It’s a novel topic. The youth want to know more. They are not afraid. The salvation is with the youth.”
This article first appeared at Out & Around.