The Secret Life of Gay Ugandan Refugees in Nairobi

On June 1, 2016 Newsweek reported: One bustling afternoon in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, three gay men from Uganda were walking home from a sexual health center when they were stopped by a police officer. Nelson, 25, was carrying a purse. In it, the police officer discovered pamphlets about gay rights, as well as condoms and lubricants that he’d received just moments earlier at the center.

To the officer, “that was the evidence that we were gay and we had come to destroy Kenya with our habits,” Nelson recalls. (The names of all refugees in this story have been changed for their protection.) He says police took the three of them to jail, placing them in a cell with straight prisoners and announcing that “these are gay people—you don’t know what they will do.”

The inmates immediately began questioning, then slapping, the gay Ugandans. This continued until Nelson managed to persuade them that the police officer was lying in an attempt to blackmail them into offering a bribe—a common practice in Kenya. The three gay Ugandans spent the night in that cell, until representatives from the sexual health clinic arrived in the morning and persuaded the police to let them go. Upon leaving the jail, Nelson says one officer threatened him: “We know where you stay.”

He probably did. For months, nearly two dozen gay, lesbian and transgender Ugandans had been living in a large house on the outskirts of Nairobi in an area called Rongai. Long after a court struck down Uganda’s infamous anti-gay law—dubbed the “Kill the Gays” bill for a death penalty provision in an early draft—LGBT people in Uganda were still being disowned by their families, hunted down by neighbors, jailed by police, even killed. Hundreds fled Uganda—mostly to Kenya, where they are faring little better.

Read more at: The Secret Life of Gay Ugandan Refugees in Nairobi

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