60 to 90 arrested in raid on gay-friendly bar in Nairobi

Club Envy in Nairobi
Club Envy in Nairobi

Kenyan police arrested 60 to 90 people, including dozens of alleged LGBT people, in a raid on a gay-friendly bar in Nairobi early on Sunday, July 6.
Their alleged crime? “Getting caught at a gay bar,” the tabloid-style Kenyan website  Ghafa reported.
That account differs from what Kenyan journalist/activist Denis Nzioka reported on Facebook — that the arrests at Club Envy apparently were for drunk and disorderly behavior or for violations of Kenya’s “Mututho Law” governing liquor sales and consumption.
Ghafa stated that a nightclub watchman said people were arrested not because they had violated the Mututho Law “but rather because of their sexual orientation.”
Club Envy scene (Photo courtesy of Foursquare.com)
Club Envy scene (Photo courtesy of Foursquare.com)

Nzioka reported, “Number of people arrested at Club Envy this morning not confirmed, though estimates say 65 people were arrested. Some have been released. Activists at the Central police station who have been following up say there is no confirmation on the actual numbers but estimates are 40 persons ‘within our circles’ meaning they are queer. 15 male and rest female.”
A number of people were reportedly released on cash bail of 2,000 Kenyan shillings (US $23) and told to return for a court hearing today.
A person reportedly among those arrested stated, “Denis, we were 96 of us arrested and we were released on cash bail of 2k. My estimate is about 70 within our circle.”
Ghafa quoted “Joji Baro, controversial openly gay, cross-dressing gospel artiste” as saying that “”The arrests at Envy had nothing to do with Mututho Law but just trying to suppress the visibility of gays and lesbians.”
The Ghafa version of the news was picked up and rewritten by Gay Star News and Pink News.
Club Envy was the scene of a homophobic attack last year.  In the incident, as described in the Kenyan Post, “man dressed like a woman, carrying even a handbag, was bashed and beaten” there in February 2013.
Club Envy is listed among the “5 Best Bar Crawls” by Up Nairobi, which describes it as “known to be popular amongst women patrons, who often seem more happy dancing with each other than with the men in the crowd.”
Homosexuality is a controversial issue in Kenya. As Pink News noted:

Kenyan government spokesperson Aden Duale said earlier this year that homosexuality was as serious as terrorism.
He said: “We need to go on and address this issue the way we want to address terrorism.
“It’s as serious as terrorism. It’s as serious as any other social evil.”

On paper, sexual activity between men is punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Kenya, but trials for alleged violations of that law occur rarely, if at all.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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