Men who have sex with men – sex workers and police in Mombasa: is sexual and gender based violence an issue?

Published: July 20, 2011

Background: Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) targeting men who have sex with men – sex workers (MSM-SW) has been known to occur in coastal Kenya. To date, there has been limited research on SGBV directed at MSM-SW and also on the potential risk of HIV transmission that is associated with SGBV. This study documents cases of SGBV and interactions between MSM-SW and the police.

Methods: Two focus group discussions (FGD) were conducted with MSM-SW in Mombasa, in July of 2009, with 17 men aged between 17- 26 years. Purposive sampling was used to identify a diverse set of participants based on age, sexual identity and occupation. The goal of the FGD was to examine the relationship between MSM-SW and police including perceived relationship with police, experiences of
SGBV, stigma, discrimination and health seeking practices.

Results were coded and a conceptual model was developed to qualitatively analyse key themes.
Results: The results indicate that MSM-SW report significant episodes of rights violations by police. These rights violations included physicals assaults, theft and verbal abuse including being called “mume Malaya” (a derogatory terms for male prostitute). Arbitrary detainment secondary to untrue charges was commonly reported by respondents and bribes required for release from detention. Notably, MSM-SW also reported being forced to have unprotected anal intercourse with police. Due to fear of disclosure of their sexual behaviors to health care providers, some reported delays in seeking SGBV health care services or absconded. MSM-SW also reported fear and reluctance to seeking legal action against perpetrators of these violent acts.

Conclusion: This study documents that SGBV is not only a human rights violation but also a potential risk factor in HIV transmission in the general population and in MARPs. Further interventions should address the SGBV existing between the police and MSM-SW in Mombasa.

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