Weekly Citizen, a tabloid newspaper in Kenya, printed a list of “top homos” in an attempt to out gay people in the country. Several were previously in the closet. While some are known internationally as proud spokespeople for the community, others include a senator and a gospel singer.
Gay rights groups have expressed concern that the publication of the list of fourteen people will increase the persecution of LGBT people in Kenya and incite mob violence, similar to when Ugandan activist David Kato was killed after being ‘named and shamed’ on the front page of a tabloid in 2010.
The Ugandan tabloid, Red Pepper, in 2010 first published a list of gay people under a banner stating “hang them”. The paper included a photo of activist David Kato who was murdered within three months. Then, in 2014, the Red Pepper published a list of what it called “200 homos” – a day after President Yoweri Museveni signed a tough anti-gay bill into law.
Although the Weekly Citizen’s article does not include calls for violence or to kill the gay people listed, there are still concerns that it could place people in danger. Gay rights activists are reaching out to the people on the list in an attempt to ensure that they are all out of danger.
This comes just a month after Kenya’s High Court ruled that the government can no longer block LGBT groups from formally registering their organisations. The three judge panel made clear the country’s constitution is supreme and the government had no case to discriminate against LGBTI people in this instance.
This article, an activist fears, could be part of the campaign to further turn the public against the LGBTI community.
“If homophobes were looking to target people, if the police were looking to arrest people, if anti-gay youths were looking to attack some teen they assume is gay, they now have a face and a name,” Denis Nzioka, one of the names mentioned, reportedly said. “We are now walking targets. While some of the people on the list are open about being gay, some are not. It is putting every person’s career, life and family at risk.”
Working together with fellow Kenyan LGBTI activist Eric Gitari, Nzioka is reaching out to every person mentioned in order to ensure they are out of danger.
They are currently considering a class action lawsuit against the newspaper for endangering the lives of the people listed in the article.
“I would not be surprised if we see other names exposed,” Nzioka added. “Right now, everyone in the community is a target. With the media ready to incite violence like this, we can’t think about the laws right now, we just have to ensure everyone stays safe.”
In December last year, a court in the country established a precedent that affirms basic rights for intersex people. Last year, the president of Kenya signed a law legalizing heterosexual polygamy, while maintaining a ban on gay sex.