LGBTQ+ rights campaigners in Kenya and Uganda are reporting a rise in homophobic incidents following a court ruling in Kenya that has sparked an outpouring of abuse and death threats against sexual minorities. The court ruling, which allows the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization, was seen as a major victory for LGBTQ+ rights in the country, where gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. However, some religious and political leaders have used the ruling to fuel a homophobic backlash, calling for tougher laws against gay sex and using inflammatory language to demonize the LGBTQ+ community.
According to Irungu Houghton, head of Amnesty International Kenya, abuse against the LGBTQ+ community has increased since the court ruling, with politicians, religious leaders, and extremist individuals calling for violence against LGBTQ+ individuals. Houghton reported that charities supporting sexual minorities living with HIV/AIDS have had their details shared on private anti-gay social media groups, with preachers turning up outside these charities’ offices to perform exorcisms. As a result, some charities in Kenya’s coastal areas have been forced to close.
In neighboring Uganda, LGBTQ+ groups are also facing a tide of attacks after a draft law was tabled in parliament that could jail anyone who says they are LGBTQ+ for 10 years, while landlords who rent to gay people could also face prison under the bill. Gay sex is already punishable with life in jail in Uganda. Politicians have voiced support for the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would also imprison anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality” or “offers premises … for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality”.
These developments have left LGBTQ+ activists in both countries feeling hunted and vulnerable. They are calling for an end to the hate and violence, and for justice and equality for all sexual minorities.