Although queer people were included in the national census, the group feels that their members did not participate in the previous elections, fearing being rejected and violated physically, verbally and digitally.
This led to four organisations – the Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination (INEND), the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), the Empowered Ladies Initiative for Equality (ELITE) and the Western Kenya LBQT Feminist Forum (WKLFF) – to sign a memorandum of understanding about including queer people in what they call an elections situation room (QBESR).
To document what happens to the lesbian, bisexual and queer women (LBQ) and gender non-conforming (GNC) people before, during and after Tuesday’s elections, QBESR deployed 46 observers across six counties.
In Mombasa, there will be 10 observers, 12 in Nairobi, 10 in Kisumu, two in Kwale, 10 in Busia and two in Kilifi to monitor and respond to emerging issues facing queers during the elections.
QBESR observers will also provide credible, real-time analysis with a focus on the participation of the LBQ women and GNC persons.
Marylize Biubwa, a queer feminist, said that questioning their gender does not promote inclusion.
Dorah Wakio, a feminist and human rights defender, felt that QBESR would help queer people assume legislative roles in Kenya. “I am foreseeing the queer people making laws that favour the group because we are still not [involved]”, she said.
Echoing Wakio, Imani Kimiri, a lawyer and human rights advocate with NGLHRC, said queer people would become more visible by showing up to vote.
Noting the likes of Denis Nzioka, an activist who identifies as gay and once contested the Kiambu’s senator’s seat, Kimiri maintained that such visibility makes queer people become known.
“By showing up to vote and documenting what happens in the electioneering period, we are providing a base of how we need to be treated from this election onwards,” Kanari said.
Esther Adhiambo, the Executive Director of INEND, felt that most leaders ‘fear’ saying outright that they support queer people though they use them as a campaign tool.
“Queer people are used as scapegoats,” she said.
Adhiambo said queer people must take advantage of their Kenyan citizenship.
While queer people alleged discrimination based on their sexuality when they were charged with criminal offences, Caroline Kendagor, the vice-president of Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association, insisted all citizens are equal before the law.