On Feb. 22, activists, reporters and well-wishers from Kenya and all over the world gathered in a courtroom in Nairobi, hoping to witness a historic moment: the decriminalization of homosexual conduct for the first time in conservative East Africa, a region where anti-LGBT crackdowns are common, sometimes even at the behest of presidents.
A judge ultimately deflated the room with a last-minute postponement of the ruling — fueling the rumor mill that Kenya’s top politicians were interfering — but the mood wasn’t glum. One activist joked that he would have time to buy a snappier suit before the new date set for the ruling in late May.
But on that same day, 20 LGBT refugees who had come to Kenya hoping to escape repression in countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Congo were spending their first full day in jail. Their ordeal has now lasted nearly a month and demonstrates the difficulties that LGBT people in Kenya face regardless of what happens in the courts.
The refugees were arrested en masse near the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in an upscale neighborhood of the Kenyan capital. Police say they were creating a public nuisance, trespassing and even defecating in public. In interviews during visiting hours at Nairobi West Prison, five of the refugees said the charges are trumped up and that they have suffered horrible physical abuse at the hands of prison guards and other prisoners. Read more via Washington Post