A criminal gang is using dating sites and Facebook to meet closeted LGBT people in Kenya, who they then blackmail.
A crime cartel operating from the Thika Road, which links the capital, Nairobi to Thika Town, is targeting gay or bisexual men who are in relationships with women or with families, men who would be the most unlikely to report these crimes to the authorities.
The Kenyan police are investigating this situation after receiving reports about a ring of criminals made up of both men and women who pretend to be gay and use social networking sites like Facebook and gay dating sites, including Gaydar, ManJam and GayRomeo to find their prey.
Once they lure them in, gang members get the men in a comporomising or sexual position and then others enter the room and take photos to blackmail them.
Gay campaigners in Kenya claim the victims have been forced to hand over money, bank cards and PIN numbers.
Tracking the gang down is proving problematic as they frequently change the location from which they operate.
The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) issued a statement about the escalating incidents of gay blackmail in the country. Over 10 incidents have been reported to them in recent months, but wherever the exact location the experience of the victims has been the same.
GALCK’s legal officer, Anthony Olouch said: ‘Blackmail and extortion is illegal in Kenya and LGBTI people should not hesitate to report such cases. A blackmail case shall be treated as such regardless of the circumstances that landed you in the hand of the blackmailers.’
GALCK say blackmailing and extortion are the two most common crimes afflicting the gay community in Kenya today. They have been the first point of contact for many of the victims of these crimes, helping them report the incidents to the police.
Sex between men is illegal in Kenya and can carry a penalty of up to 14 years. Because these crimes often go unreported to the authorities, GALCK are asking for those who have experienced such blackmail to tell their stories in confidence. They hope to compile a report to reveal how much gay people are being forced to pay to keep their secret.