Excellent news to report from Kenya. The commander of a Nairobi police division promised in January to arrest the ringleaders behind a notorious scheme that targets gay men for extortion, blackmail and rape. Police have launched an undercover sting operation and made at least one arrest, reports Denis Nzioka at Identity Kenya.
The suspected blackmailer was arrested last weekend when he tried to get away with a laptop from a police officer who had laid a trap for him. He is alleged to have fallen in the police dragnet after several more victims came forward to record statements with the police.
According to activists following up on the cases, four more victims – all gay – have come forward to report that they fell victim to online dates and were forced to part with money lest they were ‘outed.’
The latest victim was a student from Mombasa who met a stranger after meeting them through Facebook. "They took my laptop, phones and school fees," he recounted. "They then took photos of me naked and threatened to send them to my family and school if I did not give them the money they wanted."
Detectives are reportedly using GPS and mobile records to make additional arrests.
Blackmail and extortion of gay men have become a "lucrative business" for criminals in Kenya, according to several reports. Many gay men are closeted—or married—and are afraid to come forward due to pervasive stigma and security concerns. Previous reports indicated the extortion gang includes police officers. Nairobi police "have denied reports that one of the blackmailers is a fellow police officer" and claim the suspect "is an imposter," reports Identity Kenya.
Kenya's government is considered progressive on gay rights. Same-sex relations are illegal—penalties are between five and 14 years’ imprisonment—but arrests and prosecutions are rare. Same-sex acts are currently illegal in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights.
Kenya was the first African nation to include men who have sex with men in their national HIV strategy. The recently-appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga has said that "gay rights are human rights" and expressed a desire to overturn anti-gay legislation. As a result, Kenya has rapidly become a refuge for many LGBTs who have been persecuted in East African nations.
See our report for EBONY: "Can Kenya Lead Africa Forward on Gay Rights?"
Some Background ...
Can Kenya Lead Africa on Gay Rights? [EBONY]
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