‘People are going to be killed’: The gay Kenyans risking everything to be free

BY DINGANI MASUKU IN NAIROBI

Mama G side-on, looking at the sky
PHOTO |Mama G says he is regularly beaten because he is gay. ABC NEWS: RAY NGUGI

Mama G is usually considered the perfect tenant — until his landlord finds out he’s gay.

Then he’s kicked out, and must find another apartment in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

“I have been evicted several times. This is my sixth place,” the 28-year-old said.

Mama G is an openly gay man in a country where homosexuality is considered a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

“I am a victim of violence. I have been beaten several times. You can’t go even three days without experiencing violence,” he said.

Despite the threat of harassment, Mama G is unapologetic about who he is, dressing how he wants and wearing makeup in public.

Mama G, a young gay man in Kenya, files his nails in his bedroom

PHOTO |Despite being hassled, Mama G dresses how he wants and wears makeup. ABC NEWS: RAY NGUGI

But the sex worker and activist is devastated that his family cut him off when he came out in 2013.

“I am always feeling bad. It is like psychological torture. I am going to counselling right now to hopefully come back to my senses after I was rejected by my family,” he says.

“This is the sixth year I have not met with my family. I don’t know how they’re faring. They don’t even check on me.”

Kenya’s highest court to rule on gay sex law

Mama G is among many gay Kenyans who hopes his life may be made a little easier today.

Mama G fixes a pride flag above the wardrobe in his apartment.

PHOTO|Mama G says whenever his landlord finds out he is gay, he is thrown out. ABC NEWS: RAY NGUGI

In their quest to be acknowledged as equal citizens, the LGBT community has filed a petition in the Kenya’s High Court to scrap a British colonial-era law which outlaws sex between men.

“All we are asking for is respect and recognition of our rights as Kenyans,” Mama G says.

Homosexuality is outlawed in all but one African country: South Africa, where the constitution upholds the right to same-sex relationships.

A recent legal victory has given Kenya’s gay community hope that the court will today rule in their favour.

Last year, the Court of Appeals ruled that conducting forced anal examinations was unconstitutional.

Gay rights activist Mercy Njueh sits on a couch in front of a brightly coloured wall

PHOTO “It will not be easy, even if we win in the courts. The backlash will be severe,” says Mercy Njueh.

ABC NEWS: RAY NGUGI

“Can you imagine being told to lie on your back and have things inserted in your anus to ascertain that you have had anal sex? It’s an invasion of privacy,” says Mercy Njueh, from Kenya’s Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The commission is one of the groups petitioning the court to overturn the ban on gay sex.

Gay Kenyans prepare for violence

While Mama G and Ms Njueh are cautiously optimistic about today’s ruling, they fear there could be an outbreak of violence regardless of the result.

“Either way, the fight for the rights of the gay, queer and lesbian [people] in Kenya will not be easy,” Ms Njueh said.

“Even if we win in the courts, the backlash will be severe.”

Mama G plans to go into hiding if tensions rise.

“If they don’t rule in our favour, I can only imagine what will happen with the kind of violence we’ve been experiencing. I know people are going to be killed,” he said.

“We have nowhere to run. We have no-one to lean on — not even religious leaders.

“When the court rules on our petition, the religious leaders will be the first to condemn it if it is in our favour,” Mama G says.

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