Monday, August 10, 2009

Sex Workers’ Rights in Kenya: "It's Better to Be a Thief Than Gay in Kenya"

via Toward Freedom, by Siena Anstis

People think you have been cursed. It's painful, we wish we had freedom.

John Mathenke was once arrested for being gay but, after failing to pay the customary bribe, was forced to have sex with the policeman. He had an orgy with a priest who publicly excoriates homosexuality, along with five other Masaai boys. And his Arab trader clients curse him during the day, but come back looking for sex at night. Such is the life of a homosexual prostitute in Nairobi, Kenya.

"It's better to be a thief than gay in Kenya," Mathenke says. Both are often punished by death, but being the latter means never revealing yourself to the public and remaining perpetually closeted. It means dealing with homophobes at day and pleasuring them at night.

In Kenya, statutes dating from the colonial period dictate prison sentences of up to 14 years for male homosexuality (there are no laws targeting lesbians). These laws are further influenced by powerful Christian and Muslim religious leaders who publicly condemn homosexuality. In turn, homophobia towards the LGBT community in Kenya is widespread, and as calls to decriminalize homosexuality grow, the backlash is strong. In late April, one woman was hit outside a bar with a bottle for being a lesbian.

Read the rest.

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