This week, Changing Attitude England has become involved with our brothers and sisters in Changing Attitude Kenya following the broadcast of three programmes about MSM’s (men who have sex with men) by a local TV station in Kisumu.
Dan Onyango is the Programme Coordinator of NYAWEK in Kisumu on the shore of Lake Victoria and Chair of Changing Attitude Kenya. Dan and others featured in the film are now in danger after receiving threats in Kisumu. Dan spoke of how NYAWEK was fighting for gay rights. He had to close the NYAWEK offices, seeking safety first in his own house and then travelling by bus to a safe house in Nairobi.
The last of the three short films titled together The Invisible Bridge featured an interview with Dan with the result that attention was focused on NYAWEK’s offices and also on the offices of KIPE, not far away, where interviews were filmed.
I visited both offices when I was in Kisumu in March this year. A day-long workshop on sexuality and spirituality was held in the NYAWEK office and on Sunday, I attended the St Sebastian Fellowship service at KIPE’s offices.
In an email on Tuesday, sent while travelling to Nairobi, Dan told me that sometimes life is hard for activists who are fighting for the rights of LGBTI people to be understood and accepted in the community. “Sometimes it is discouraging but we have to do it since it is a call.”
The Invisible Bridge – Part 1 focused on Biko Nyawita, a married man who has sex with other men. Biko also said he had feelings of same sex attractions since he was 15 but was forced to marry a girl at 23. Biko described how he sleeps with his wife and another man in his matrimonial bed in order that he may be aroused to have sex with his wife.
The programme also featured an interview with Mutisya Leonard, Programme Coodinator of KIPE, Kisumu Initiative for Positive Empowerment.
Part 2 focused on Felix Kasanda, known as Mama G, a male sex worker whose clientele is largely married men in the city of Kisumu. It also features interviews with Eunice Kinyua of DASCI, Kisumu, Helga Musyoki of MARPS – NASCOP
Part 3 was shown on Tuesday night. It featured Musa (not his real name), another male sex worker who exchanges sex for fish to fishermen along Lake Victoria. He described how he has two partners on each of the 5 islands he visits each month, some of them married men. He also has one constant male partner.
The interview with Dan Onyango features in this last film. These three films demonstrate the dangers to everyone, gay men, straight men, married men and women, which result from the shocking prejudice in Africa against homosexuality, a prejudice fuelled by the Churches. Changing Attitude Kenya is working with members of the Anglican Church, including bishops, to break down prejudice by offering education and through personal encounters. In telling their stories, LGBTI Kenyan Anglicans show that gay people can embody the same Christian values of love and fidelity as everyone else. They also have the opportunity to describe the devastating effect of homophobia, resulting in sexual activity and relationships which put everyone’s health at risk.
Denis Nzioka reports in Identity Kenya that Biko is now in hiding for fear of his life.
According to a well known lesbian activist in Kisumu, says Denis, one of the reasons why there is much security concern in the area is that in the first feature, Biko said how he has sex with more than 15 people in a month and most of them are school boys.
Biko said that the number of men he sleeps with rises from 7 to 15 a month ‘especially when schools close’, meaning teenage boys. This remark, according to the lesbian activist, painted the picture that gay men are paedophiles. ‘Biko’s story spoiled it all. I mean it is the talk of the town and especially that part that he sleeps with school boys.’
Male sex workers in Nairobi
Earlier this year, Muffled Killer shown on KTN, a film by Anne Soy Mwendia exposed how male sex workers in Nairobi got clients – mostly married men – and the risk of HIV infection given that most clients paid extra not to use condoms. John Mathenge and Mantully, both male sex workers in Nairobi who appeared in the film, had to go into hiding for fear of their lives.
According to Queer Watchtower, an LGBT critic, the issue of security and media must be taken seriously to avoid such cases in the future. ‘Most of the gay men, MSM and sex workers who appear in this show do not have a backup plan when their lives are threatened for having come out on TV. More so, their groups are also not in a position to handle their cases either for one reason or another. One way to lessen threats is for the person to leave where they were staying maybe a week or so earlier before the show airs and then come back a week or more later to give people time to digest.’