#IndexAwards2018: National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission combats Kenyan discrimination

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/d-q_4RcHH_0″][vc_column_text]The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC ) is the only organisation in Kenya — where homosexuality is still a criminal offence and attacks on the gay community frequent — using a legal route to challenge LGBTIQ discrimination.

2018 Freedom of Expression Awards link

Men who have sex with men in Kenya can be punished by up to 14 years in prison and, although there are no specific laws relating to women, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in 2010 that women who have sex with women should also be imprisoned. LGBTIQ people also often find themselves subject to violence and blackmail.

NGLHRC was set up in 2012 by six young legal advocates, but its name was officially only recognised two years ago after a long court battle, which is still being appealed. Winning the right even to exist was, according to the International Service for Human Rights, a milestone for all charities campaigning for gay rights on the African continent.

The aim of the commission is to prevent discrimination on account of real or presumed sexual orientation and gender identity, and respond to discrimination when it happens.

The way they address this is by offering legal aid to Kenya’s LGBTIQ community across every city, town, rural area, and county whenever they are faced with discrimination, harassment and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender.   They also offer training to public officials and judges.

The main challenge the NGLHRC faces is difficulties in reforming the laws and policies because of delays in court dates. The insensitive messages published by the media about LGBTIQ people is also, they argue, retrograde and increases stigma and violence.

NGLHRC currently has three cases in court. Its aim is to achieve change by using litigation to ensure legal precedent. The first court case the commission is involved in is about ensuring its very survival: making sure the attorney general does  not win a constitutional appeal against the registration of the commission.

The second is to ensure the end of forced anal examinations which is common when a man is accused of having sex with another man.

And the third is to challenge the constitutionality of the penal code which criminalises homosexuality.

One of the biggest campaigning successes of the NGLHRC in the last year was when in September 2017. It won agreement from the Kenya Medical Association to stop forced anal examination of clients “even in the guise of discovering crimes.”

“Being nominated for an 2018 Freedom of Expression Award was quite unexpected,” said NGLHRC. “To be included with likes of so many activists, artists and organisations who are dedicated to the realisation of life-changing work is quite the honour. Many times in the quiet of each of our corners, doing the day to day work needed to make our communities better places, the work can feel isolated. Recognition of this kind reinforces that what the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission does matter.”

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Podcast: Kenyan journalist forced into hiding after reporting the news

“Yassin Juma is an extraordinary journalist, who has taken great personal risks to get the story of what is happening in the war that is being waged in Somalia against Al-Shabaab,” writer Ismail Einashe told Index on Censorship.

But Juma is now in hiding.

Einashe interviewed the Kenyan investigative journalist for the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine, which is themed on the risks of reporting worldwide.

Juma was arrested in January for posting information on social media about a recent attack on the Kenyan Defence Force by the Al-Shabaab militant group. Juma revealed that, according to a credible source within the KDF, 103 soldiers had been killed in an attack on the Kenyan army base in El Adde, Somalia.

The journalist was later arrested and faced charges of  “misuse of a telecommunication gadget”. After being grilled by police and detained for two days, he was released without charge but has since gone into hiding, fearing that his reporting is angering the authorities.

Listen to Einashe explaining the significance of this case on the Soundcloud above. The full article, written by Einashe, is in the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Print copies of the magazine are available here, or you can take out a digital subscription via Exact Editions. Copies are also available at the BFI, the Serpentine Gallery, MagCulture, (London), News from Nowhere (Liverpool), Home (Manchester) and on Amazon. Each magazine sale helps Index on Censorship continue its fight for free expression worldwide.

Amran Abdundi: This award is for the marginalised women of northern Kenya

Amran Abdundi is an activist who, through various channels, has worked to make life safer in northeastern Kenya – supporting women who are vulnerable to rape, female circumcision and murder. Despite death threats, Abdundi’s Frontier Indigenous Network (FIN) has set up shelters along the dangerous border between Kenya and Somalia, an area where militant terrorist groups pose a threat to many. Alongside these shelters, FIN also maps out conflict areas, targets the illegal arms trade which fuels local conflict and has set up radio listening groups. As a way of reaching women in remote areas, these circles help to dispel myths about tuberculosis treatment and female property ownership, and to tackle doctrines spread by the area’s terror organisations. She is the recipient of the 2015 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Campaigning. 

I want to thank the judges who selected me for this award after going through so many worthwhile and wonderful nominations that were submitted from around the world. Equally I want to thank Index on Censorship’s staff. I will be eternally indebted to you all.

This award goes to marginalised women of northern Kenya whom I have worked with closely for the last ten years and who have joined hands with me in fighting outdated cultural practices that deny them the right to own property, expose them to dangerous practices like FGM, and threaten them with sexual exploitation.

Women's rights activist Amran Abdundi (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Women’s rights activist Amran Abdundi (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

The award also goes to conflict concubines who were abducted by armed youths in the height of armed violence in northern Kenya and acted as comfort women for armed militias. When these women came back from conflict zones with children born out of wedlock, they were rejected by their families. This award is for them.

Society rejected them and they live in separate makeshift areas outside normal settlement areas in northern Kenya. Working together with the conflict concubines we engaged various stakeholders — women leaders, elders, local government officials, cultural leaders and youths in order to open a dialogue. This led to partial acceptance by the community in accommodating them. I am still working in engaging the stakeholders to fully accept them and still hope to integrate the conflict concubines in mainstream society.

This award also goes to women who through my organizational campaign are today enjoying their constitutional right to own property, land and livestock. This is contrary to past practice when all lands, livestocks and properties acquired by women was registered in name of their husbands. Or if the woman was single or widowed, her brother or father’s name. Our campaign and advocacy managed to break that outdated cultural practice.

The award also goes to women victims of armed violence perpetrated by terrorist groups, community militias and gangs along the Kenya/Somalia border. Thugs who have used their armed power to attack, rape, gang rape and block women fleeing droughts from reaching Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya. We used our loud speakers to confront the attackers and we documented the abuses along the border.

I have done all these things not to win any award or recognition but because of a grave reality on the ground. A horror which moved me to join hands with other women and form a woman-led organisation called FRONTIER INDIGENOUS NETWORK.

As a founder member I started as community mobiliser and now I am Executive Director. Because of my work and campaigns I have been called many names by those people who are opposed to change. I cannot mention those names here — they are unprintable or not worth mentioning. But this award also goes to them too.

Thank you Index on Censorship for selecting my work in northern Kenya for this award. The women of northern Kenya will now know that their struggles and their efforts to fight for their rights are being recognised internationally.

Today is my birthday and it will be a birthday that I will never forget. It will be in my mind for the rest of my life. You are a true partner of the women of northern Kenya. Thank you.

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This article was posted on Wednesday 18 March 2015 at indexoncensorship.org

Kenyan politician wants to ban miniskirts and tight trousers

(Image: Semmick Photo/Shutterstock)

(Image: Semmick Photo/Shutterstock)

Kilifi County’s Marafa ward representative Renson Kambi is working on a bill that will bar women from wearing short skirts and men from wearing tight trousers. Kambi says the motion, to be tabled before Kilifi County Assembly soon, is aimed at restoring decency. “Moral standards have gone down in Kilifi” due to “improper dressing,” he stated. “Most ladies are dressing skimpily and that cannot be tolerated.”

The bill, still in its initial stages, proposes among other things, to ban garments that “expose the flesh” in public. He said undue dressing continues to cultivate prostitution, and that the situation must be put under control before it deteriorates further. The bill, however, will not only centre around women’s dress, but also aims at barring men from wearing tight trousers.

Kambi said that it has become difficult to stroll around markets in Kilifi county, especially in the company of in-laws and children, because of the way young men and women have decided to dress. He claims young girls are now putting on micro miniskirts in schools, making it difficult for their male colleagues and male teachers to concentrate. “The girls are putting on ‘very short miniskirts’ to an extent that they cannot even pick up a pen when it falls down without exposing their flesh,” he said.

Kilifi County Deputy Speaker Teddy Mwambire is among a host of leaders who have come out strongly in support of the bill. He says it aspires to ensure that the people of Kilifi county go back to the traditional mode of dressing, bringing to an end what he labelled borrowed cultures.

Mwambire says youths have adopted a way of dressing that has to be dealt with, before immorality makes huge strides in the community. “We cannot just sit still as young people – both male and female continue roaming our streets half naked.”

But former Kilifi Town Council Chairman Anthony Kingi has admonished Kambi for planning to introduce a bill he believes will have no impact on people’s lives, saying he should come up with bills that will improve the state of education in the county. Kingi rubbished claims that improper dress is the main cause of dwindling education standards.

If the bill reaches a majority in the county assembly, it will be passed to Governor Amason Jeffa Kingi who may sign it into law or reject it. For now, debates for or against continue to gain momentum in Kilifi county and across Kenya.

This article was posted on March 12, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org