It could have been an informative newspaper article about an anti-AIDS clinic serving LGBT people in West Kenya. Instead, the reporter’s error-filled, scare-mongering account of a visit to the clinic “put the lives of most gays and lesbians in Kisumu at risk,” a local LGBT rights activist said.
The April 15 article “Gays make inroads in Kisumu” triggered a series of human rights abuses, according to the Kisumu-area activist. Online, the article has another inflammatory headline, “Uproar as homosexuality spreads across Kisumu.”
The West Kenyan activist said that, in response to the Sunday Standard article:
- Ten cases of threats and intimidation were reported to Nyarwek (the Nyanza, Rift Valley and Western Kenya Coalition), which seeks recognition of the human rights of LGBT people.
- Eight of the people who were threatened are hiding out and two have been temporarily relocated to safe locations.
- Preachers devoted their sermons to condemnations of homosexuality.
- Families threw their gay children out of their homes after identifying them by the clothing that’s visible in the photo that the Standard’s photographer took in the waiting room of the Men Against Aids Youth Organisation (MAAYGO) clinic.
- The clinic was closed, at least temporarily.
Among the article’s most inflammatory claims is the statement that homosexuality is increasing in Kisumu. That claim comes out of thin air. No one in the article says it’s so, unless it’s an unnamed “senior official” at the clinic, who actually seems to be discussing an increase in the number of people that the clinic serves. That senior official says simply, “The number is growing.”
In addition, without saying so, it seems that the reporter shares the widespread false belief that homosexuals “recruit” straight men into homosexuality.
Whoever wrote the caption under the photo definitely believes that falsehood. The caption suggests that recruitment occurs at gay-friendly brothels: “The number of youth being recruited into homosexuality is on the rise despite only two brothels accommodating gays and their clients in Kisumu.”
Out of the blue, the reporter states, “By March 2018, Kisumu’s gay population had grown to 3,500,” as if there’s an ongoing census of Kisumu residents’ sexual preferences.
Estimating the percentage of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in a population is a notoriously tricky endeavor. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey estimated in 1948 that 10 percent of the male population is homosexual. If five percent of Kisumu’s total population is gay, the city’s gay population would be about 10,000.
This is the Sunday Standard article, with clarifications inserted to identify the falsehoods that the article perpetuates:
Uproar as homosexuality spreads across Kisumu
The office block, hidden deep in a middle level estate in Kisumu, was all quiet, save for a few chirping birds perched on tall trees in the compound. A hawk-eyed guard, ushered us in, after confirming we had an appointment with the boss.
After a few procedures, we were led into a well-furnished, expansive room where we came face-to-face with a group of smartly dressed young men. They sat in twos, their fingers caressing one another. [The reporter suggests here that partners’ emotional support for each other while waiting for a daunting medical visit is sexually motivated.]
They are all men, but among them are those playing the role of girlfriend. The “girls” shyly stare at us, their ‘sexy’ hairstyles and ‘soft’ faces sparkling with fresh makeup.
The clinic run by a non-governmental organisation — Men against Aids Youth Organisation (MAAYGO) — is exclusively for the gay and lesbians whose increasing number in Kisumu has alarmed the Church. [Who says there’s an increase? The “senior official” of MAAYGO?]
MAAYGO’s leaders and members are all gay and others transgender [Does that really mean gay OR transgender?]; both infected and affected by HIV. Most of its clients are aged between 18 and 35. The clinic offers HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services, while promoting their sexual reproductive health.
Kisumu has in the past one year realised an increase in homosexuals. [Who says?] The clinic has enrolled 2,113 homosexuals.
By March 2018, Kisumu’s gay population had grown to 3,500. [Who says?]
“The number is growing. [Isn’t he talking about the number of clients served by the clinic?] I am sure there are many more who still fear coming out,” said a senior official at MAAYGO, who will only call Ken for security reasons.
Ken said about 700 of the gay men are married with children, including a pastor, high school and university students and teachers.
A 20-year-old university student, who admitted being a sex worker, said his parents know about his dealings. “I have trustworthy clients from Nairobi, Mombasa and other key towns in Kenya who call me for my services. I was with a client in Ukwala, Siaya County two days ago,” he said.
Alfred (not his real name) said he was sexually violated at 14 by his school football coach and ever since he developed attraction to fellow men. “I am now a sex worker who moves from one brothel to another; my clients pay well. Finding an alternative job is not an option for me,” he said. [Really? The implication is that his sexual preference was determined by the fact that he was raped at age 14.]
Another MAAYGO beneficiary, Geoffrey (not real name) recounted how his uncle lured him to have sex with him when he was only 12. “I am HIV positive and I have been raped four times by other gay men from the brothel,” he said. [Really? The implication is that his sexual preference was determined by incestuous sexual abuse at age 12.]
Steve (not his real name), laments how his family forced him to marry. He ended up settling down with a lesbian who understands him. “We have two children, my wife has a lesbian partner as I possess multiple gay partners,” he said. “We both come to MAAYGO for counseling on how we can raise our children,” said Steve.
A beneficiary and peer educator at MAAYGO, said he has identified about 40 gay men in Kondele area in the last four years. He is married with two children and neither his wife nor his family know about his condition. [Does the reporter think homosexuality is a “condition”? More likely, the man was referring to his own HIV-positive status as a condition.]
A clinician at the clinic, Laura Alivitsa, said she and her colleagues treat the men for free when it comes to HIV-related diseases but anal wart treatment goes up to Sh15,000 [about US $150].
“We refer some patients to Kisumu County Hospital, Railways Dispensary, Jaramogi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Migosi Hospital,” said Alivitsa.
The Church has reacted angrily to reports of the spread of homosexual activities in Kisumu and want police to crack down on those involved. [Sadly, it’s no surprise that conservative Christians think that a police crackdown is the answer to men falling in love with men.]
Catholic Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Kisumu Fr Moses Omollo said the Church is aware of the vicious activities : “It is a human weakness and the Church’s stand is clear. Such activities must be condemned,” he said. [What are these “vicious activities” that the reporter mentions — men falling in love with men?]
Rev (Prof) David Kodia of Bondo Anglican Church of Kenya Diocese said it is sad homosexuality continued to thrive even though it is illegal in Kenya. “We must condemn this illegal activity. Church leaders and politicians must not bury their heads in the sand,” said Prof Kodia. [Rev. Kodia is surprised that the colonial-era law against same-sex intimacy hasn’t made homosexuality go away?]
When contacted, Kisumu County Police Commander John Kamau said police in the area are not aware of the existence of such a population.
“I will consult my all the Officers Commanding Police Stations (OCs) to confirm the reports,” said Kamau. [Commander Kamau didn’t know that LGBT people live in Kisumu? He will ask his officers to investigate!?]
Additional comments and clarifications from readers are welcome.
- Kenya court heads toward ruling on anti-gay laws (
- Kenya church must reinstate 3 allegedly gay priests (
- Kenya LGBTI advocates fight to keep official recognition (July 2017, 76crimes.com)
- Archive of this blog’s articles about Kenya.