Features, Opinion

‘Terrified and disturbed’: Kenyan police accused of homophobic abuse

The gay community in Kenya would rather live with or fight abuses on their own than involve the police.

(Note: This story mentions sexual violence and police abuse.)

Police officers have the solemn duty of enforcing laws and protecting the rights of the people they serve, but we cannot always run to them to report any abuse or infringement on our rights as individuals.

Cases of gay men being assaulted and victimised by officers who should be protecting them have been on the rise in Kenya, with law enforcers accused of using their positions for homophobic harassment.

Alex Githua is a 28-year-old gay man living and working in the capital city, Nairobi

In September 2020, he was physically assaulted by a group of young men on his way home.

“I suffered several injuries on my hands and head, and I lost my laptop and some cash,” he said.

When he went to record a statement with the police, he found himself in deep trouble. 

The male police officer staffing the station at that time locked him in a dark room and raped him before chasing him away.

“I was shocked, terrified and disturbed,” said Githua.

Not knowing where to run to for justice, he went back home to nurse his injuries in silence.

A gay justice lobby in Kenya says that four out of every 10 gay men in country have suffered or are at risk of police harassment.

Sadly and even more demoralising to the victims, even if cases are reported to the authorities, no action is taken. 

According to Timothy Wanjohi, the lobby’s programs coordinator, the majority of cases are undocumented and go unpunished because the perpetrators are the same people who are supposed to be protecting the victims.

“Most of the cases go unreported because you cannot expect that police officers will take action against their colleague accused of raping a gay person,” he said.

The lobby has been helping gay victims of police assault and harassment to access medical attention, counselling, and therapy to recover.

“The cases are many, and the police are taking advantage of the criminalisation of homosexuality to sexually harass gay people,” said Wanjohi.

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