Kenyan MSM Activist Fears for Life After TV Documentary Exposure

Published: February 7, 2012

A Kenyan Sex Worker rights activist fears for his life after he was issued with an eviction notice by his landlord for featuring in a February 5, TV news documentary about MSM sex work in Nairobi.
John Mathenge, the Executive Director of Hoymas (Health Options for Young Men on Aids and STI’s) a Kenyan support group for MSM and gay men living with HIV, told Behind the Mask in a telephone interview, “There has been a lot of attention since this documentary was televised. For one, my landlady has given me an eviction notice saying I am not welcome there anymore. Right now I cannot risk going home in case of an attack.”

He added, “The idea behind the documentary was to come out openly to the public to stop evading the issue of unprotected sex that would bring infections back home.”

Mathenge said, “We are simply advocating for people to be honest about their sexual habits, use protection, and go for testing and treatment if necessary. This is not an issue we can continue to ignore any longer and we cannot continue to pretend that MSM does not exist in Kenya.”

The documentary entitled “Muffled Killers” and screened on private TV station, KTN, was hosted by hosted a journalist Ann Soy-Mwendia.

It featured candid discussions about MSM sex work in Kenya, unusual for TV in Kenya. It also tied in the predominance of unprotected sex with the alarming realities of HIV and Aids infections in Kenya.

As well as Mathenge, the documentary showcased contributions from Majesty Mantully an MSM Sex worker and peer educator, Mona Kareithi of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Gloria Gakii from Sex Workers Outreach Programme (SWOP), a project run jointly by the University of Nairobi and Canada’s University of Manitoba and National Aids and STIs Control Programme (NASCOP) Director Dr Nicholas Muragori.

On the documentary, Dr Muragori indicated that according to statistics, 90 per cent the MSM sex workers were locals who cut across various religion and various wealth backgrounds and not foreigners as thought by some Kenyans.

The documentary revealed that MSM are very integrated in society and cannot continue to be ignored. Figures show that three out of every five clients of MSM sex workers are married men and this heightens the risks of exposure to their wives and their female sexual partners.

Since the debut of the feature, Mathenge has received a barrage of phone calls and messages on social networks such as Facebook. While some callers appear to have been encouraged by the broadcast to find out their HIV status, others have expressed hostility and homophobic sentiments.

Mathenge said his former pastor sent him a text message referring to him as a “demon.”

Reports indicate that some Human Rights organisations have raised the concerns about the welfare of those featured recently in the media advocating for equal rights.

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