Protecting the ‘invisible’

February 26, 2014

‘I had no choice. It was either my family or career and so we went to the ATM close by and I gave them $230 which was in my account. By now I was afraid and shaking.’  A Kenyan victim of blackmailers who target the country’s gay community.

Being a member of the LGBTI community across Africa is not easier.  East Africa is no exception. The recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality law has left the community in Uganda on tenterhooks. Across the border in Kenya, activists and the wider community are holding their breath, hoping that such draconian rules don’t cross over.  

The threats posed to one’s liberty and safety do not only come from the homophobic laws, but also from social stigma and the consequent harassment, constantly putting you at potential risk. 

Utunzi is a web-based Kenyan platform that is used for information sharing, risk reporting, alerts and documentation of abuses against members of the country’s LGBTI community.  Utunzi which is Kiswahili for to protect, is a platform that allows individuals and LGBTI groups and networks to respond to threats and risks, report and document these risks and eventually create a searchable database of violations against sexual minorities in the Kenya.

“There was no central mechanism for documentation nor mechanism for reporting nor a  formal response mechanism. Nor were LGBTI organisations adequately informing one another of incidences or response mechanisms. What was needed  was a centralised system that was able to deflect calls for assistance from organisations or individuals to a system that gets a victim to the the right person and at the right time and place,” says Angus Parkinson, the Utunzi coordinator.

The platform can be accessed via the internet, in addition to giving victims of abuse a text number to report incidents.

“The is important to Hivos as it builds on the success of web-based solutions such as Uchaguzi in Kenya and Harrrassmap in Egypt, and we want to promote the sharing of information that will make Kenya a safer place for the country’s LGBTI community to live in,” says Ruth Kimani, Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights Programme Officer.

The data available will now provide information on violations and help study trends, occurrences and the nature of those occurences.

The humanist movement has always been closely involved in the emancipation of sexual minorities out of the belief that self-determination and diversity also apply to sexuality and lifestyle. That is why Hivos, as a humanist development organisation, is particularly focused on LGBT activism in developing countries.