Prior to the Lesbian Spring Gathering in Bremen in Germany, at Pentecost this year, I had never heard of Kakuma Camp in Kenya. And I was not prepared when I learned how my lesbian sisters are doing there. But since then, I want to do my part to get them out of there as soon as possible.
Kakuma Camp is located in the northwest of Kenya. It was founded in the early 1990s for the “Lost Boys”. These were children and young people from South Sudan who fled the civil war there. They travelled thousands of kilometres on foot to at last be safe in Kakuma Camp. Their fate was documented in the film “Lost Boys of Sudan”.
Today, 200,000 refugees from different African countries have found protection in Kakuma. However, this does not apply to the refugees from Block 13.
Block 13 is where the homosexuals are housed. These are lesbians with children from forced marriages, these are gay and trans people who have fled Uganda or Burundi because homosexuality is a punishable offence there, and also punished by their immediate social environment. There, death is a constant threat. Many lesbians and gay and trans people have therefore fled from death in the hope of finding a peaceful life elsewhere. And once they arrived at Kakuma Camp, they hoped to finally find peace and be safe.
This hope has not been fulfilled.
On the contrary, in some cases they experience more cruelty than in their countries of origin, because even there, Kakuma Camp, they have to expect homophobic attacks every day. This is because everyone in the camp knows who lives in Block 13: these are the ones who are not deemed worthy of living and who can therefore be attacked.
The lesbians there are particularly targeted. Sexual, psychological and extreme physical violence are on the agenda for them, every day.
The perpetrators are mainly other refugees who view homosexuality as a sin because of their religion and beliefs and who therefore believe these attacks and the violence to be justified.
The lesbians there are particularly targeted. Sexual, psychological and extreme physical violence are on the agenda for them, every day. Fear for their lives and the lives of their children dominates their days and nights. Sleep is out of the question, they can only take naps while others keep watch in order to be at all times prepared against the insidious attacks, because the police cannot be looked to for support. The police do not investigate the lesbians’ reports, so that the majority of lesbians now refrain from reporting what is being done to them. The danger of a report attracting even more violence is too strong.
Conditions at the camp after the rain
Recently, their huts were again doused with petrol, which this time was discovered just in time.
Homophobia also affects medical care and is therefore failing the women. After a rape, the injuries resulting from rape are rarely examined and merely treated with painkillers, so the women are often in pain for months.
Living in Block 13 means not being able to leave Block 13, as violence lurks everywhere and does not even spare the children, making it impossible for them to attend school.
Amnesty Kenya is trying to intervene but has not been able to achieve anything so far. And unfortunately, the UN Human Rights Council staff do not adequately assess the situation.
The whole situation is inhumane and will not change in the future as homophobia is very strong and persistent.
Amnesty Kenya is trying to intervene but has not been able to achieve anything so far. And unfortunately, the UN Human Rights Council staff do not adequately assess the situation. They do not recognise the homophobia or transphobia that the people in Block 13 are exposed to, or are they afraid of jeopardising the good reputation of the camp or their otherwise good work?
At the Lesbian Spring Gathering Zoom conference, Juliet and Anniemarie told us about the terrible conditions they have to live under as lesbians in Block 13 and their eyes revealed what they have experienced and are going through. I can’t get these images out of my head. Since then, we have been in contact and trying to find ways to free them from this camp, but nobody seems to be interested in freeing them from there and taking them to a country that is safe for them.
And this despite the fact that this was Pride Month, where so many politicians were adorning themselves with rainbow flags and talking about solidarity and how happy they are for us that after many, many struggles we are finally allowed to be who we are without having to live in the closet.
But the lesbians and gays in Kakuma Camp who experience the worst violence every day are not thought of. Maybe Africa is too far away?
This needs to change now.
Evacuate Block 13 in Kakuma Camp now.
Safe shelter for lesbians, gays and trans – safe asylum now.
You can support the LGBT refugees on Block 13 in Kakuma Camp at this Go Fund Me page:
This is the petition to UNHCR to help LGBT refugees at Block 13 in Kenya’s Kakuma camp to get evacuated to safety:
The photos were taken by Wavamundo Benon, a gay man at Kakuma Camp.