International

Police slow to respond to queer murders

The recent murder of Sheila Lumumba has highlighted the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community in Kenya. 

Lumumba was a non-binary lesbian who was raped and murdered in their home.

The police have been slow to respond, leaving the family to trace CCTV footage of Lumumba’s last moments and the murder weapon left at the scene. 

In numerous cases, queer Kenyans have disappeared, only to be found dead under mysterious circumstances. 

In May 2021, LGBTQ+ activist Joash Mosoti was attacked, tortured, and strangled to death by an unknown individual(s) in his house. 

In the same year, trans woman activist Erica Chandra was brutally killed and her body dumped by the roadside. 

In each of these cases, the hashtags #JusticeForErica, #JusticeForJoash, and #JusticeforSheila trended on Twitter, with many Kenyans calling for justice and condemning these atrocious killings. 

However, a few Kenyans who out homophobic tweets supporting the murders – a clear sign of how deeply institutionalised homophobia is rooted in the country. 

As much as the queer community in Kenya continues to support the victims’ families in their fight, the authorities are yet to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Homophobic attacks in Kenya have escalated while the government refuses to acknowledge the issue. 

In a 2018 interview with CNN, President Kenyatta declared that homosexuality not an issue of human rights but of “our base as a culture.” 

In 2019, Kenya’s High Court ruled against LGBTQ+ activists seeking to overturn a law banning gay sex, which is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. 

Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has warned that the government’s insensitive response to the plight of the LGBTQ+ community is to blame. 

The queer community in Kenya is not legally protected, and this is one of the reasons we are murdered regularly and without consequences. 

These cases are investigated poorly, making it extremely hard to punish the perpetrators. 

The families and friends of the victims are left grieving with no hope for justice.

Mob attacks on queer Kenyans have also occurred. 

Victims fear reporting hate crimes to the police, who arrest or beat them. 

Religious and political leaders are often at the forefront of inciting violence against LGBTQ+ people. 

Most LGBTQ+ Kenyans are alienated by their families and friends once they come out. 

Most queer Kenyans have to hide their identity and live in fear of being discovered. 

Currently, it is highly unlikely that the situation in Kenya will get better for the LGBTQ+ community.

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