Kenya is on the precipice of LGBTI rights.
In one week’s time, we will know whether Kenya is the next country to decriminalize gay sex.
The law has impacted LGBTI people living in the eastern African country for decades.
Voices of Kenya, put together by All Out, gathers some of their experiences of discrimination and persecution.
‘The aim is to show that the question of legalisation is not a technical, purely legal, matter. Real people are getting hurt and suffer from these laws,’ said Mathias Wasik, director of programs at All Out, said.
‘We are sharing their stories with the world to help make them heard across the globe before the court ruling.’
Homosexuality is currently punishable by up to 14 years in jail. The law has also been used to persecute the LGBTI community.
If successful next week, a positive judgment might send a rainbow wave of LGBTI progress across Africa.
Voices of Kenya: Excerpts
‘It is incredibly difficult for me to exist here as a transgender woman. (…) These laws have taken space away from me. Space to exist as a Kenyan, space to exist as a transgender woman, space to exist as a woman.
‘I am really looking forward to a ruling in our favor. I understand that any change will not come immediately.
‘There will be a longer journey that we will have to travel in order to get to the point where we are all accepted.
‘The judges will not immediately stop the “boda boda” [Kenyan motorcycle taxi] rider in my rural town from throwing stones at me for being transgender. But they will have started one of many steps to ensure that the society accepts me for who I am.’
‘As a lesbian who discovered herself at a very young age, the laws criminalizing same-sex conduct and everything that has resulted from them have killed everything that I have stood for.
‘I have dreamt of being in politics, I have dreamt of being a public figure. And I know I am good at all these things.
‘But these laws are killing all these dreams. (…) If the laws change however, I would feel like a caged bird that has been set free. (…) Our sexual orientation would no longer be a hindrance for growth.’
‘The colonial laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations have turned us into criminals and outcasts not only to society but also to our families.
‘Some people think violence will change who we are. We are not safe in Kenya.
‘When the courts make the right decision, we will be able to seek justice. Justice that is due to us due to the fact that we are human. Justice that is due to us due to the fact that we are Kenyan.’
‘People rarely talk about the mental health implications of the law. Being constantly told you’re worth less and having society, empowered by the state, violate your rights can have a very negative effect.’
‘I really don’t know what will happen if the court rules in our favor. Also I do know however that there will be more ground to stand on against the persecution that people face on account of their sexuality.
‘I hope that people will face less stigma and discrimination than they currently face. However, on a day to day basis, it really isn’t clear to me what will change from the ruling.’
The High School Student
‘The physical injuries and mental anguish we all face in our schools due to our sexual orientation is no secret.
‘Most Kenyans know of a school where one of us has been to. Also most Kenyans have seen media stories of us being suspended or even expelled from our schools because we were suspected of having same-sex conduct.
‘Most of our stories don’t even see the light of day. But every day, one of us is spotted, insulted, beaten, suspended, expelled, and in some cases, we take our own lives. But because we are underage, we have no voices.’