Anti-gay crackdown grips East Africa

Written by on March 15, 2023

Arnold came out as gay years ago, but last month, the Kenyan guitarist removed a rainbow flag from his Twitter profile, fearing for his safety as a new wave of virulent homophobia sweeps East Africa.

The 35-year-old musician, who asked not to be identified by his real name, told AFP he was worried the government might use social media to identify and round up LGBTQ citizens.

Kenya, like its neighbors, is in the grip of a brutal cost-of-living crisis and faces its worst drought in four decades.

But activists say those issues have been pushed to the back-burner as leaders across the political spectrum unite to unleash a campaign of “state-sponsored homophobia”.

Homosexuality is illegal in many East African countries, which have a history of repression and stigmas against gays, often encouraged by conservative Muslims and Christians.

In Kenya and Tanzania, gay sex remains a crime under colonial-era laws with penalties including prison terms of up to 14 years.

Convictions are rare, however, and despite the legal threats against homosexuality, gay rights groups have been allowed to operate in Kenya, unlike in neighboring nations such as Somalia.

But the laws have made the LGBTQ community in Kenya easy prey for police harassment and online attacks.

And conditions have worsened since the most recent wave of homophobia took hold.

NGLHRC recorded 117 attacks in Kenya against people perceived to be LGBTQ last month, up from 78 in January.

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