Negativity towards homosexuality is widespread in Kenya and recent events ensure that it’s a brave gay or lesbian Kenyan who comes out of the closet. Frequent denunciations by those in power have created a toxic atmosphere of homophobia, which sometimes spills over into violence and, more often, into government harassment. In July 2014, for example, 40 people were arrested for 'suspected homosexuality' in a Nairobi nightclub.

Underlying all of this is a penal code that states that homosexual (and attempted homosexual) behaviour is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Attitudes may be slowly shifting, however – in 2015 Kenya's High Court ruled in favour of the National Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya being able to register as an NGO, something that had previously been rejected multiple times due to homosexuality's illegality in Kenya. This has at least given gay people in Kenya a voice and is the first step on the long path towards legalisation. No law currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The main challenge to the acceptance of gay and lesbian lifestyles in Kenya is religion. Nearly all churches and mosques maintain a vociferously anti-gay position, and this is amplified by the presence of homophobic American churches that actively campaign in Kenya against gay rights. In early 2014 star author Binyavanga Wainaina revealed publicly that he was gay to protest against a resurgence in anti-gay laws and public debate across Africa. A few others have followed suit, but visibility for gay people remains extremely low.

While there are very few prosecutions under the law, it is certainly better to be discreet as a gay foreigner in Kenya. Some local con artists do a good line in blackmail, picking up foreigners then threatening to expose them to the police.

Useful Resources

David Tours (www.davidtravel.com) Can arrange anything from balloon safaris to luxurious coastal hideaways, all with a gay focus.

Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK; www.galck.org) Local advocacy group that keeps a low profile but that it exists at all in the public domain represents a scrap of progress.

Global Gayz (www.globalgayz.com/africa/kenya) Links to Kenyan gay issues.