“We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.” This famous quote on human rights by the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, signifies a critical global commitment to the fight against discrimination. LGBT+ persons in particular are amongst those groups whose human rights have always been affronted by discrimination – in this case based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the African context, intolerance towards LGBT+ persons has been further exacerbated by laws which make same-sex relationships illegal. Kenya falls into this category, where engaging in homosexual acts is a punishable crime under the Penal Code.
This is why Hivos East Africa has given frontline support to Utunzi Rainbow Security Network as part of a broader effort to increase safety and security awareness and practices amongst LGBT+ communities in Eastern Africa. The Network is collaboration between Hivos East Africa; Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western LGBTI Network (NYARWEK) and the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC).
Utunzi, meaning 'care' in Kiswahili, is a platform that allows individuals and organisations to report and document violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender persons, intersex and queer (LGBT+) individuals, respond to emergency security situations, track violations and share information. In addition, Utunzi provides information on LGBT+ concerns in Kenya and maintains a searchable database of recorded violations.
The platform’s user interface receives violation reports and requests through: SMS (Safaricom free short-code 22069); email (email@example.com); Twitter (@UtunziNetwork); Facebook (Utunzi: Rainbow Security Network) or by direct entries using the reporting form on the website. The platform has also been customised to a mobile App (Utunzi Rainbow Security Network) available in the Google App Store.
Utunzi aims to put an end to the widespread disrespect in Kenya for the human rights of LGBT+ persons, ranging from health care providers who breach their privacy by exposing their identity, to physical harassment by fellow citizens. Even the police often fail to come to the rescue of LGBT+ persons attacked by a mob, and officers will subject LGBT+ persons to unnecessary body and house searches in an attempt to find evidence of other perceived ‘crimes’ of being gay.
Watch the story of change documentary by our partner NYARWEK.
Hivos believes LGBT+ Rights are human rights. We imagine a future a future where sexual and gender minorities can enjoy the freedom of simply being human; going to school, accessing health services, growing in their careers, playing leadership roles in society and enjoying their sexuality without stigma.
Through projects like Utunzi, Hivos supports courageous defenders to build strong LGBT+ movements in Africa that address barriers associated with sexual rights.