By Susan Njiraini
NAIROBI – In a harrowing tale of persecution and resilience, LGBTQ activist Nelson Mutugi faces imprisonment in for his unwavering gay rights advocacy in Kenya.
As the world became aware of the injustice he endured, rumors circulated about his partner, Samuel Nyamu, recently fleeing the country to escape the recent persecution that befell them both.
Nelson, a courageous advocate for LGBTQ rights, has often found himself on the wrong side of the law in Kenya as he championed for equality and acceptance. Despite the progressive strides seen globally in acknowledging and safeguarding LGBTQ rights, his activism placed him in the crosshairs of a legal system that remains hostile to such causes.
Speaking today from his cell at the Muranga Prison he told reporters that attempts to explain the simplicity of their act, holding hands, fell on deaf ears.
“I have been arrested for simply holding hands with a few gay friends. The anti-gay verbal abuse hurled at us was more than a reminder; it was a manifestation of the homophobia we confront on a daily basis, a relentless assault on our very identities. This is a manifestation of the systemic discrimination woven into the fabric of our society,” he said.
The imprisonment of Nelson not only sparked outrage within the LGBTQ community but also garnered international attention. Activists, organizations, and supporters rallied to condemn the violation of human rights and the unjust treatment of someone advocating for a more inclusive society.
Amidst the turmoil, rumors circulated about Samuel Nyamu, Nelson’s partner, fleeing for the USA in 2011 for educational pursuits. While officially attributed to academic aspirations, speculation lingers that Samuel was escaping the country due to the challenges faced by gay individuals.
Tragically, the plight of LGBTQ individuals in Kenya extends beyond imprisonment. Reports of violence, torture, and even murder of gay people, such as the case of David Kato, a prominent gay rights activist, have sent shockwaves through the global LGBTQ community. David Kato’s murder stands as a chilling reminder of the severe consequences faced by those advocating for basic human rights and acceptance.
While Nelson has continued to endure the challenges of imprisonment, the story highlights the lengths to which LGBTQ individuals must go to secure their safety and freedom. The global community’s response underscores the urgency to address systemic discrimination and persecution based on sexual orientation.
“People across the continent are watching Kenya very closely,” said Anthony Oluoch from Pan Africa ILGA, a global charity advocating for the rights of sexual minorities.
“There are laws in many African countries that criminalize same-sex relationships. We hope to get Nelson released from prison. It will give hope to the continent.”
The plight of Nelson Mutugi and his rumored partner Samuel, coupled with the tragic losses of other activists serves as a stark reminder that the fight for LGBTQ rights is far from over and requires ongoing global solidarity.
The international community’s attention to this case not only serves to advocate for Nelson’s release but also amplifies the call for a world where love, acceptance, and equality prevail over discrimination and persecution.
Same-sex relationships are a crime in more than 70 countries around the world, almost half of them in Africa. South Africa is the only African nation to have legalized gay marriage.
The law against gay sex in Kenya — sections 162 and 165 — was introduced during British rule more than 120 years ago.
In 2010, Kenya adopted its new constitution, which did not provide for equality, human dignity and freedom from discrimination of members of the gay community.
Petitioners now want the sections of the law repealed, saying they violate constitutional rights.
However, the Kenyan government, backed by powerful Christian groups, is opposed to scrapping the ban on gay sex and argued during court hearings last year that it will lead to same-sex marriage.