- Introduction and background
Laws that are not grounded on human rights create social inequalities and exacerbate human rights violations against vulnerable groups. The coastal region of kenya is an area where most inhabitants are cultured with islamic religious beliefs and traditional conservatism. Consequently, this elicits very low tolerance to the gender and sexual minorities from the wider society. The level of stigma and discrimination is hieghtened due to the fact that the current laws criminalizes the same sex relationships including sex work. This current scenario has brought up cases of human rights violations meted against the GSM community not only in the general society but also specifically in service provision institutions. In this regard, access to services in the county of Mombasa , Kilifi , and Kwale is still significantly low , since most of the programs do not adequately reach the GSM community, including access to justice . Nevertheless, the survivors of human rights violations fail to seek justice due to fear of being victimized due to the sexual identities. This presents many unreported cases of human rights violations that impede access to health and other social services.
According to the “the issue is violence report,2015” released by Human Rights Watch in partnership with PEMA Kenya, the Kenya’s Penal Code, a colonial-era relic, criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” widely understood to refer to anal intercourse between men. Government agencies have denied some organizations representing LGBT Kenyans the right to register and operate legally, on the grounds that they allegedly promote illegal behavior, although recent court victories have compelled the authorities to register two such organizations. Politicians and extremist religious leaders seek to bolster their relevance by proposing homophobic legislation and preaching hatred against gay Kenyans. Media houses engage in sensational reporting on “scandals,” sometimes entirely fabricated, involving LGBT people. Although many LGBT people draw on support from friends and family and carve out spaces in which they can live in relative safety, the risk of violence remains present.
“Being a lesbian or a gay man is a non-issue. Being harmed because of who we are is a huge issue.” —Lorna Dias, Executive Coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Nairobi, July 2015
From the above, there is urgent need to enhance the capacities of stakeholders and duty bearers on aspects of SGBV, understanding of gender and sexual diversity and human rights . Violence against KP is endemic. The laws that criminalize same sex relationships, “gender impersonation” ,create an environment in which violence against GSMs is tacitly accepted or even considered justified.
In the light of this, PEMA Kenya, with the support from KIOS seeks to conduct a two days dialogue forum on gender and human rights for 30 lawyers and representatives of the LGBTIQ community. The forum will be premised on the crucial role that lawyers have to play to enhance access to justice for the GSM community.
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