Friday, 22nd February 2019, a judgment of a historic court case in Kenya is expected, in which the LGBT movement seeks to have criminalisation clauses of the current law repealed. First petitioner of this case is the Director of HOYMAS, John Mathenge. Other organisations working on this case are NGLHRC, GALCK and NYARWEK.
Equal rights mean equal access to health services
Over the years, men who have sex with men and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Kenya have faced legal challenges. The current law makes consensual same sex acts between adults punishable with up to 14 years. The law, in combination with deeply rooted social attitudes that it fuels, prohibits many men who have sex with men and LGBT people from accessing HIV services. They often feel uncomfortable entering health facilities. They fear being ridiculed and denied healthcare by doctors and other health workers, particularly in government hospitals. In addition, men who have sex with men and LGBT people experience social exclusion and human rights violations, such as sexual violence and illegal arrests and detention.
“We all know that my community is highly affected by the HIV epidemic. HIV prevalence is nineteen times higher among male sex workers and men who have sex with men than among the rest of the population. We reach out to this group with customised HIV services. Providing these much-needed HIV services and other human rights-based services is what motivates me. Every morning, I wake up knowing I will change people’s lives. I wouldn’t like to lose any sex worker to a preventable disease like HIV.” – John Mathenge, Director of HOYMAS
The court case; the Repeal 162 ruling
In 2016 a group of civil society organisations began to challenge the current law as being unconstitutional. In February 2018, Kenya’s High Court began considering the coalition’s application to decriminalise consensual same sex conduct. A verdict was expected later in 2018, but got postponed till 2019. In two days, on 22nd of February 2019, the final judgment for the hearing is scheduled. The ruling on this case (known as the ‘Repeal 162 ruling’, referring to the unconstitutional section in the Penal Code) irrespective of the outcome, is definitely a landmark on the LGBT movement in the region. It has not only revitalised efforts to have multiple African constitutions challenged, but also put the courts of law under question on their ultimate duty to protect the rights of all human beings.
The vocal activists of HOYMAS
Members of HOYMAS (Health Options for Young Men on HIV, AIDS and STIs) have been some of the most vocal activists for gay and sex workers rights in Kenya. Director of HOYMAS, John Mathenge, is the first petitioner in this court case seeking to ensure equal health and human rights for all Kenyan, especially for those people in same sex relationships. The case receives a lot of attention from the press in Kenya. Since John is one of the public faces of this fight many of the death threats are direct to him and his family. He has received tens of hate speech messages, death threats and other violent messages. Possible violations against men who have sex with men and the LGBT community can be expected, including violence, arrests and home evictions. Aidsfonds, PITCH and HOYMAS are taking safety measures and have a safety response plan in place to support victims of violence. In the meantime, organisations working on this case welcome your support message using #Repeal162
More information on the Repeal 162 ruling
More information on HOYMAS and John