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Nairobi gay community use ‘dirty tricks’ to spread influence

By - NYAMBEGA GISESA | June 28th 2013


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The city’s growing homosexual community has adopted an aggressive strategy to spread its influence, hit back at bias and recruit more people into the habit, The Nairobian can reveal.

Information obtained from local closed online same-sex forums, multiple interviews and gay rights meetings indicate the targeting of entertainment joints and individuals deemed to be against the minority sexual orientation.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya but activists have often pointed to the Bill of Rights in the 2010 Constitution to challenge the prohibition. Society also largely frowns at same-sex relationships, often leading to homophobia.

But the city’s gay community is now working on plans to reverse that and go a step further by having their own strongholds where heterosexuals can be discriminated against — in what some may refer to as ‘heterophobia’.  

This largely includes dominating some entertainment venues and having their own shops. Gays and lesbians already have outspoken organisations that last year held an award ceremony for same-sex individuals and their supporters, mostly NGOs. Their most vocal advocate is the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK).

To dovetail into the plot to grow their reach, a shop has been opened on Moi Avenue that specialises in selling items that fit into the gay and lesbian lifestyle. Some of the things sold are as bizarre as the finger condom and saucy DVDs.

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Other items include multi-coloured flags and wristbands, books, navel rings, and tongue bars that gays and lesbians can use to identify each other.

“We are being fought from everywhere,” Lydia, a self-confessed lesbian, says. “We are fighting back even through introducing our own businesses.”

Recently Gay Kenya Trust and the GALCK Re-loaded Taskforce (GRT) cautioned homosexuals warning them of some places that are considered unsafe.

Top on the list include some of Nairobi’s leading entertainment spots. Once the darlings of some social joints, the homosexuals have in recent months been forced out of venues for ‘indecent behaviour’ after complaints from other customers.  

“There are several bars that have banned, beaten and removed gays and lesbians from their premises,” Dennis Nzioki, a Kenyan gay and lesbians rights activist, says. “There have also been extreme cases of black gay people being beaten in and Caucasian ones not being tolerated.”

Some of the entertainment spots that gays and lesbians say they are not allowed access are on Kimathi Street and Moi Avenue. A club in Westlands that some Nairobians consider a gay venue is also said to be racially profiling homosexuals by allowing whites and kicking out blacks.

Nzioka says that he sees no wrong with homosexuals partying with other people.

“What is wrong with visiting bars? Don’t we buy beer and ensure that the joints remain profitable?” he says.

However, there are some social joints where they feel welcome. One of them is on Tom Mboya Street and has an ‘underground’ section while others are on Mama Ngina Street, Waiyaki Way, Kenyatta Avenue and Koinange Street. And last year a bar on Tom Mboya Street issued a statement saying it was not against homosexuals but asked them not to ‘provoke’ other customers with their behaviour.   

Nzioka claims that several establishments in Westlands and Mombasa Road have gone ahead to have secret ‘gays only’ theme nights..

“They will not brand them (the theme nights) as ‘gay’ but we clearly know that among ourselves,” he says. The Nairobian could not authenticate the claim

We can now reveal that in their fights for recognition, homosexuals have declared total war against any theatre, bookshop, gallery, cafe, restaurant, bar, club or any other social space or event that discriminate against them.

They use social media and word of mouth to whip up emotions and boast of a network of their members in the media, politics, the church and other sectors. 

A source in the gay community says the strategy is to use propaganda to claim a facility is racist, rundown or has poor quality service, among other things, as part of a vicious smear campaign. These issues appeal to heterosexuals, especially those on social media, who unwittingly spread the word against such joints.

Ironically, one of the dirty tactics against venues that are hostile to gays is to label them ‘homosexual havens’— thus putting off heterosexuals. The plan also includes mobilising gays to frequently go to such places and create a scene.

Our source tells us that this was a strategy used to force the closure of an entertainment spot on Kimathi Street, which has since reopened under a new name.

In social groups, there is an army of homosexuals who are promoting their visibility by protesting in silence against cafes, restaurants, bars and night clubs in Nairobi’s Central Business District that have been enforcing a strict ‘no entry’ rule for persons who are perceived to be gay and lesbians. Occasionally, they turn to the streets brandishing red umbrellas in demonstrations to these establishments. The ego marches are aimed at showing their strength and numbers.

“We have the power and resources to bring down anybody or any establishment that stands in our way,” claims our source.

One of their sensational allegations is that they control Kenya’s art, entertainment and sports sectors and are slowly by slowly penetrating institutions of governance.

“There are so many gays and lesbians in the country,” Sheila, a lesbian, says. “While many prefer to remain unknown, there is a generation rising up. A good example is the group that has formed a church choir for gays and lesbians that meets in the city centre on Fridays.”

The strategy to turn some venues or streets into their exclusive hangout places fits into a global trend. In such places homosexuals usually make aggressive sexual advances towards straight people or literally kick them out. In the UK, for example, heterosexuals in Manchester’s Canal Street are the minority in the numerous bars.

As their agitation for recognition strengthens, so are attacks directed at homosexuals. This week, two male casual labourers caught having sex in a bush in Kiambu were beaten by residents.

“Take him home or to a hotel. LOL!” The closed Facebook group for one Kenya’s aggressive homosexuals, Outinkenya Kenya, joked about it.

Another strategy for Kenyan gays and lesbians, thought to be aimed at recruiting more Kenyans into the habit, involves contacting people through suggestive text and Facebook messages. This includes soliciting for sex from people known to be straight and sending pro-gay messages.

Lesbians are especially aggressive in recruiting young campus women and those they meet in restaurants. 

Whether the strategy to spread the influence of homosexuals will work in a city that remains largely conservative about same-sex matters is hard to tell. What is clear is that reports of the recent aggression from what is considered a minority group could provoke sharp condemnation.

The Kenyan Penal Code of 1930, as revised in 2006, lists homosexuality as an unnatural offence. Men found having sex with other men can be imprisoned for between 14 and 21 years.

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