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Kenya: LGBTQ+ refugees face serious human rights violations, says Amnesty

Kenya: LGBTQ+ refugees face serious human rights violations, says Amnesty
Illustration: Ugandan gay refugees returning from food shopping in Nairobi, Kenya   -  
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Brian Inganga/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved.


The United Nations has called on the international community to take action to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp, according to a report by two NGOs, including Amnesty International.

The report highlights the "extreme discrimination and violence" faced by "several hundred" LGBTQ+ people living in the camp, which hosts 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers in northwestern Kenya.

They find themselves victims of "hate crimes, acts of violence, including rape, and other serious human rights abuses", Amnesty International and the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), an NGO based in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, said in a statement. 

They interviewed 41 people between 2018 and February 2023.

Among them, Esther, a 41-year-old lesbian, described being raped twice in 2018 in the camp, the first time by two men at knife-point and the second time by four men during a robbery "in the presence of her seven-year-old son".

These violations are committed "almost with impunity, given the inaction of the authorities", say the two organisations, claiming that the camp "is still not safe" for LGBTQ+ people.

"While the Constitution protects the lives and dignity of all people, LGBTQ+ asylum seekers face discrimination as well as homophobic or transphobic behaviour by government officials, police, and other services," said Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty International in Kenya.

"This often results in delays in processing their asylum applications, harassment, violent homophobic attacks, threats, intimidation, and severely limited opportunities for integration in the country or resettlement to a third country," he added.

Amnesty International and NGLHRC urge the Kenyan government to "ensure the physical and psychological safety of all LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees in the camp" in Kakuma without delay.

Homophobia is widespread across East Africa.

In Kenya, homosexuality is a crime under colonial-era laws with penalties of up to 14 years in prison.

President William Ruto, a devout evangelical Christian, said in early March that same-sex marriages could "take place in other countries, but not in Kenya". He said homosexuality was a Western import that "Kenyan customs, traditions, Christianity and Islam cannot allow".

However, according to Amnesty and the NGLHRC, Kenya is the only country in East and Horn of Africa to offer "asylum to people seeking protection on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression and sexual characteristics".

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