OPINION: ‘Corrective rape’ against LGBTQ+ must end

Sexual and Gender Based Violence (GBV) identification, reporting and assistance tends to focus more on the heterosexual relationships and most of the time does not focus or speak about what is happening within sexual and gender minority communities such as the LGBTQ+.

This community faces a variety of forms of SGBV even their own partners which affects their mental health.

Physical, emotional and other forms of abuse inflict physical and emotional pain on persons who have chosen to love who they want to despite community pressure on a ‘correct’ social way of life deemed to be ‘acceptable’.

Domestic violence is not limited to relationships between men and women, and can affect people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

In the LGBTQ community, it occurs at rates that are the same as or even higher than the heterosexual community.

According to a CDC research, 43.8% of lesbian women, 61.1% of bisexual women, 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking in their lifetime.

In comparison, 35% of heterosexual women and 29% of heterosexual men faced the same type of violence. Importantly, while rape is included in these statistics, sexual violence is a separate issue in the LGBTQ community.

Kenya is no exception to this kind of global data. As with sexual violence, LGBTQ people face barriers to reporting domestic abuse.

Discrimination or otherwise ineffective assistance from the police, medical professionals and service providers often make individuals reluctant to seek help from these sources.

According to The Sexual Offences Act, 2006, rape is a sexual offence punishable by law.

However, LGBTQ+ persons face a lot of self and communal stigma. In the recent times, there have been reports that parents, religious leaders and even the community at large support ‘corrective rape’ which is perceived as a ‘cure’ for persons who identify as LGBTQ+.

Corrective rape is an act of rape where for example, a heterosexual man has sexual intercourse with a lesbian to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

On the other hand, conversion therapy refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or suppress a person’s gender identity. It can range from electric shock treatment to religious teachings or therapy designed to change someone’s sexuality.

Conversion therapy, just like ‘corrective rape’ causes psychological and physical damage. The practice is outlawed in countries like the US, Australia and Canada.

Corrective rape is happening in Kenya. Parents are overseeing this horrifying and sexual offence that they believe will change the sexual orientation and gender identity of their children. This act should end and perpetrators brought to book.

Some groups within the LGBTQ community are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence.

Some abusers may try to exercise control of their victims in LGBTQ+ relationships in ways not experienced in heterosexual relationships.

For example, they mat threatening to ‘out’ a partner’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It may also be a method of preventing a victim of seeking help.

The government should be committed to helping all victims and survivors of domestic violence. Each person deserves dignity and respect. Every person deserves to life a life free from violence and abuse.

The Ministry of Health together with the National Police Service should offer a range affordable services to victims and survivors of violence and abuse.

Services like emergency shelters, counselling and therapy, medical accompaniment, support groups, legal system support, and civil legal services are vital.

Lisa MaryAnne and Antony Njuguna are Sexual Reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocates in Kiambu, Kenya

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