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AHRC Calls for Justice for Sheila and Decolonization of Sexuality

By Melanie Nathan, ED African Human rights Coalition, COPYRIGHT: Melanie Nathan and AHRC.

African Human Rights Coalition is deeply saddened to hear of the brutal murder of Sheila Lumumba. We extend our deepest condolences to Sheila's grieving family, their friends and the Kenyan lesbian, non-binary and LGBTQI community. May their dear soul find rest and may their memory be a blessing. AHRC joins the call for justice for Sheila. AHRC calls for an end to the criminalization and colonization of LGBTQI+ people. It is time to end the hate these dangerous laws engender among good people.

Together with other Human Rights groups, African Human Rights Coalition is calling on the Kenyan Government to investigate the murder of Sheila Lumumba, who identified as a non-binary lesbian. This call has has sparked the trending hashtag #JusticeForSheila.

Sheila Lumumba's body was found April 21, after being missing when their colleagues at a hospitality business noticed their absence, according to news site K24 TV. BLUNT FORCE INJURY to the head Stab wounds to the eyes

Raped Mutilated Tortured While police have not yet reported a motive, at African Human Rights Coalition, we are privy to the constant stories of violence perpetrated against lesbians and all of the LGBTQI community, based on the perceptions and climates that criminalizing laws create for the community. The law that makes adult, private, same-sex consensual conduct a crime leads to discrimination and often violence against individuals on the grounds of their sexual orientation. When same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized, the effect is the criminalization of sexuality and relationships, and one’s very being!

At African Human Rights Coalition we receive extensive reporting from various African countries, including Kenya, of so called “corrective” rape. This occurs where the rapist believes he can “cure” a lesbian of her sexual orientation or to make them “act more like their gender.”

Kenya is a country that in effect criminalizes ALL LGBTQI+ people through the legislative existence and application of the Kenyan Penal Code which criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.” This statute is interpreted as prohibiting any consensual same-sex sexual activity. Violators of the statute face a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment if convicted. A separate statute specifically criminalizes indecent acts between men. Penalties range between 5 to 21 years imprisonment.

Sections 162 and 165, CAP 163, of the Penal Code was recently constitutionally challenged in the Kenyan High Court. The highly controversial case, Eric Gitari v Attorney General & another (Petition no. 150 of 2016), with the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), sought to invalidate the law arguing that the law violated Kenya’s 2010 constitution, which guarantees equality, dignity and privacy for all citizens. The Kenyan High Court heard arguments in the case that challenged parts of the Penal Code seen as targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The NGLHRC argued that sections of the code are in breach of the constitution and deny basic rights by criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adults. The commission's executive director, Eric Gitari, noted in a statement that parts of the Penal Code are used to “justify violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the East African nation.”[1] The case was filed in 2016 and after many postponements argument was heard during February of 2018.The Kenyan Courts kept postponing ruling in the case.

On May 24, 2019 the Court upheld the Penal Code.

Homosexuality is considered to be a western import, un-African, a taboo and repugnant to the cultural values and morality of Kenya. According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 96 percent of Kenyan residents believe that homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept. The Pew Research Center: Global Divide on Homosexuality, June 04, 2013, reports that 90% of Kenyans say homosexuality should not be accepted by society. I noted that based on my experience with direct reporting on the treatment LGBTI people in Kenya, it is my opinion that if the Court ruled that the Penal Code is unconstitutional, the majority of the Kenyan populace will be displeased. While LGBTI individuals were already subjected to mob and vigilante justice, it was feared this would rise, as the populace would be inclined to heighten the already existing proclivity to deliver extra-judicial measures to “punish” and possibly “eradicate” LGBTI individuals. This placed LGBTI community in heightened fear and on extra alert to maintain privacy.

The Court in upholding the Penal Code decided in effect to maintain criminalizing gay sex, as noted by Reuters: “…keeping same sex relations punishable by 14 years in jail in the East African nation and drawing strong criticism from the United Nations and rights activists.” … “ Some gay rights activists wept outside the courtroom after the verdict while supporters of the ban clapped, congratulated each other and yelled “thank you” at the judges’ bench. Other people backing the ban held placards outside the court with messages, including “homosexuality is an abomination.”

This is the climate that brought brutal murder to Sheila. This is the climate where those seeking retribution and correction feel justified to rape, mutilate and murder. This is the climate that the Kenyan Government fosters with its failure to repeal that Draconian Penal CodesThe societal justifications are a sordid misrepresentation of the genesis and history of these penal codes.

It is not un-African to be on a spectrum of human sexuality. To suggest such is tantamount to dehumanizing Africans. All human beings are subjected to sexuality, gender identity and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) and Africans are no different. Sexuality is not a behavior in and of itself. It is also not a culture. It is a human way of being. To call any form of sexuality UN-AFRICAN is to refuse to see Africans as human and serves only to prop up the misrepresentations, misunderstandings and the dicta of religious extremists and the continued colonization of Africa.

Families are also demonized for having LGBTQI family members, which often results in parents, siblings and close family members turning against their kin. It is a courageous act for a Kenyan family to stand up and demand justice for their LGBTQI+ child. The distraught family of Sheila is calling for justice. Given Sheila's sexual orientation and non-binary gender identity, this is extremely courageous and should wake Kenya up to the fact that people can love their LGBTQI+ children and demand justice for brutal murder. (

Perhaps this family can help Kenya to awaken to the fact love must come ahead of hate. It is time to open Kenya's door to understanding that being LGBTQI it is NOT a Western import, which it is touted to be in attempts to justify the criminalization of LGBTQI+ people, but the fact is it is the very law that criminalizes homosexuality that is the Western Colonial-era import.

Members of Kenya's LGBTQ community routinely face discrimination and stigma, and with efforts to decriminalize gay sex thwarted, LGBTQI and LGBTQI-supporting Kenyans have taken to social media to highlight the discrimination the group faces. Kenya's National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) says what happened to Sheila is not a one-off. "It bears mentioning that unfortunately these are not isolated incidences [sic] and are part of a pattern of attacks and violence against LGBTIQ+ persons in the country," it tweeted. In 2021 the hashtags #JusticeForErica and #JusticeForJoash were trending following the murder of trans-woman activist Erica Chandra and LGBTQ activist Joash Mosoti.

Over 30 countries in Africa - more than half- criminalize LGBTQI people with harsh punitive codes and consequences that result in persecution, violence and discrimination. We see hundreds of cases per year - those seeking protection and asylum - escaping the very violence that Sheila was subjected to.

African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC), works with LGBTQI+ communities and individuals in and from African countries seeking to claim and defend human rights, utilizing education, advocacy, resources, and direct services.

AHRC’s Work: -

o Educating and advocating on the issues emanating from homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia, forming coalition alliances locally, on the continent, and abroad.

o Case management services for LGBTQI+ people in forced displacement.

o Emergency shelter, food, medical referrals, and legal services to sustain LGBTQI+ asylum seekers, refugees and their children, throughout the displacement cycle.

o AHRC also provides country conditions expert witness reports and testimony for 14 different African countries to asylum cases in the United States, and globally.


A vigil will be held for Sheila Lumumba on Saturday, according to the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya.


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