Why Key Populations in Kenya are opposed to biometrics

Why does the Government want to know where you live, what you do, who you sleep with?

Whereas efforts to estimate the size, track HIV prevalence, and understand HIV knowledge among Key populations (men who have sex with men, sex workers, and those who use or inject drugs), and for these populations to get sufficient access to services are welcome, concerns have been raised around the use of biometric identifiers—most often fingerprints—to track participants in these efforts, and ensure the same person does not get counted twice.

Collecting and storing the biometric data of people already facing criminalisation, raises a host of ethics and human rights concerns.

Many civil society and community groups have begun voicing concern about the use of biometrics to track, monitor and research their communities, and now the entire Key Population network of Kenya is raising the alarm over a proposal by the Kenya Government – funded by the Global Fund and with technical assistance from PEPFAR – to use biometric fingerprinting for the collection of Key Population size estimates during an upcoming IBBS Study.

Agreeing that biometric identification might improve data gathering, in the context of same sex criminalisation, illegality of engaging in sex work, and continued criminalisation of drug use in Kenya, the insistent use of biometrics raises concerns that are insufficiently addressed in current policies.

It is common knowledge that such data collection, and data storage is an infringement of one’s privacy, and may even expose persons to risks of legal action or violence. Already, with these concerns, which are not being addressed, trust in the health system has fallen.

Consultations with these Key Populations, spearheaded by community organisations, have shown that they are in full support of the IBBS study and its component of collection of size estimate but do not support the use of biometrics as a method of data collection.

Furthermore, the use of biomarkers—finger printing, iris scanning, toe scanning—will introduce fear and uncertainty among communities already criminalised about the safety of healthcare clinics. This is in addition to other self-incriminating details such as phone number, home address, HIV status, place of work, etc., that will be used during this study. Such will only serve to drive people away from healthcare and reduce participation in the IBBS study.

One argument for the use of biometrics is the the copy-paste of data and information, e.g. a participant being recruited twice for the same study. Granted, experts have suggested that previous estimates significantly under-estimated the size of Key Populations in the country, so evidence suggests under-sampling is a far greater concern than duplication in the study.

More importantly, however, size estimation surveys do not require such biomarkers—capture/recapture, respondent driven sampling as well as a range of other methodologies have been used with success. Researchers have collected data through referral systems and have not had major challenges of duplication of participants that would skew their findings. In fact, most of the highly respected Key Populations size estimates, used globally, have not used biomarkers in any form.

Apart from data collection, another key concern that has been voiced is data safety and storage. Methods of storage of data can pose challenges if the safety, handling and security of the data is compromised. There are still questions on data access by unauthorized persons and capacity by various sections of Government to force data handlers to share information collected.

In fact, the use of coded fingerprints does not stop unauthorized person who are unable to gain access the the larger database, but have access to the data collection machines, from using them at areas considered as ‘hotspots’ to identify Key Populations whose data is in the system without the need to access the larger database.

We do not support the use of any biometric data collection but instead recommend enhancing the use of the other methods to ensure a high quality study that will generate data to promote and defend the human rights of Key Population to quality, stigma-free health services.

Our advice to the Government is that we are ready to dialogue on this as we map out key ethics and human rights considerations regarding the use of biometrics in HIV surveillance among Key Populations.

We are ready to talk.

Authors

Denis NziokaDenis Nzioka is a gay rights activist based in Nairobi, Kenya

Key Populations ConsortiumThe Key Populations Consortium is a network of organisations serving sex workers, men having sex with men and people who inject drugs in Kenya

Acceptance Speech: #Feathers10 African Feather Award Honouree 2018

Denis Nzioka

On being named honoree of the 2018 Africa Feather Award by Feather Awards 2018 – South Africa’s LGBTI Awards

Poet. Lunatic. Lover.

Thambi Dish, members of the Feathers Awards, distinguished guests, viewers, and all present tonight.

I wish the Feather Awards to know that I am as delighted as I am honoured. And, I am honoured.

The lives of sexual and gender minority Africans have enraptured me when I was growing up, in part, because I was this community. Now, as I totter into antiquity, their lives, stories, and experiences, enrapture me still.

Having given ten years, as it were, to amplifying and telling differently, LGBTIQ and sex workers’ stories, voices, and experiences in Kenya, and in Africa, I am able to think.

I think of our colleagues, our families, our allies, our lovers, partners, our friends, now gone, who played their parts in getting us here. Kato. Nana. Simelane. Lembembe. Nkoli. Mjomba. Mamicha. Rabina. Nogwaza. There are many others.

I think of the sumptuous passions, and prodigious stories, alive and well and with us now. I think of the astonishing young, the gifted and able young persons, different, sexually, gender-wise, and expressively, who I meet practically everyday, interact and share with, and from whom I grab energy and resilience in handfuls.

I think of my own home and of the loves and friendships I’ve known here, for more than a third of century, and of how much they have given to me both personally, privately and professionally.

And, I am deeply thankful!

And now, at this last, you have given me this delightful shock. You are very good.

Good night and all the best in every imaginable way!

And the Africa Feather Award 2018 goes to…

#Feathers10

The Africa Feather of the Year Award for 2018 has been awarded to Denis Nzioka. The Feather Awards, South Africa’s LGBTI Awards, recognise and celebrate the LGBTI community and iconic personalities, and achievers who inspire the LGBTI community.

To mark their 10th anniversary, this year, the Feather Awards have awarded this year’s Africa Feather of the Year Award to Kenyan LGBTIQ activist, Denis Nzioka.

This award, introduced in 2015, in conjunction with the Thamo Dish Foundation, gives recognition to African LGBTIQ activists who have done tremendous work for the LGBTIQ community in Africa, and are continuously taking strides to ensure a better future for the LGBTIQ community.

The Awards ceremony will be held on November 15, South Africa, where Denis Nzioka will be formally announced that evening in an event to be hosted by South Africa’s icon, Somizi.

Apply! Gender Justice and Human Rights Interactive Workshop, 17-18th Nov, Nairobi

The Leitner Center for International Law and Justice in collaboration with CREAW are organising a free, two-day workshop that will take place at Nairobi’s Sankara Hotel from Nov. 17 – 18th.

The goal of this interactive workshop is to train university students and early career activists on gender justice through the framework of gender studies and human rights.

The workshop will also include a training of the trainers, for participating students and activists who may want to replicate some of the training modules back in their universities or NGOs.

The target audience are university students and early career activists and is focused on youth activism. It would not be suitable for advanced professionals with a strong background in gender justice since it is an introductory workshop.

Check below flyer for more details, and how you can apply to participate.

Leitnr-CREAW November 2018 Gender Justice & Human Rights Workshop Flyer 

Topics include: Introduction to gender theory, introduction to human rights, Feminism, Women’s rights and gender equality in Kenya, intersectional discrimination and the rights of minorities in Kenya, and gender justice advocacy.

The #Awesome50 Annual List of Awesome LGBTIQ Africans

11 OCTOBER 2018

THE AWESOME 50 ANNUAL LIST CELEBRATES INSPIRATIONAL LGBTIQ AFRICANS

Johannesburg, South Africa – The #Awesome50 Annual List of Awesome LGBTIQ Africans is a first of its kind platform aimed at celebrating, honouring and profiling LGBTIQ Africans who are doing work that benefits LGBTIQ people. The list, honours 50 LGBTIQ people who are from the African continent whose work directly and indirectly positively impacts the lives of LGBTIQ people in human rights, media, politics, corporate, social and civic development, academia, health and other areas. The list further recognises five LGBTIQ allies who’ve used their work and platform to benefit LGBTIQ people.

The #Awesome50 List is the brainchild of LGBTIQ activist, publicist and entrepreneur Motlatsi Motseoile. The List includes South African marketing guru Sylvester Chauke, actor and singer Nakhane, Feather Awards founder Thami Kotlolo and entertainer Somizi Mhlongo. Among the unsung heroes are South African AIDS Council co-chair Steve Letsike, human rights lawyer Mpho Nefuri – who has represented LGBTIQ people in hate crimes cases, and Ekurhuleni Pride organiser Ntsupe Mohale. Ensuring that the list is as diverse as possible, it has listed Botswana Transgender rights activists Katlego Kesupile-Kolanyane and Ricki Kgositau, Nigerian human rights defender Pamela Adie and Kenyan journalist Denis Nzioka, among others. The project further recognises five LGBTIQ allies who include Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, Dr Sindi van Zyl and Business Leadership South Africa CEO Bonang Mohale.

“The rights of LGBTIQ Africans have come under threat in recent years and forced many of us to hide or run from what is close and familiar. It has forced many LGBTIQ people to stand up, shout and be heard, if not for the queer community, then only for themselves. It is important for us as a community to then speak the names of these heroes and icons, to celebrate and thank them for their tireless and heroic efforts and ongoing work. This list is only the apex of what needs to be done to thank and honour those who have laid down their lives for us to even be able to have this list, be present in media, politics and other spaces in greater society and leadership. As we celebrate #PrideMonth it is important to do so by honouring these Africans who have stood up, to ensure that we are proud, by just living their lives in brave, bold and proud manners. To each listed African and to the allies, I personally thank them” – Motlatsi Motseoile, curator

The list is supported by UberPride, an employee resource group at Uber Sub-Saharan Africa which aims to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion and diversity within the company. The list is the culmination of a process of selection and consultation with the LGBTIQ community. It represents a wide group of LGBTIQ activists in a diverse selection of industries, practices and regions. Representation on the list includes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana.

We believe the world is brighter, more colourful, more productive, more creative, and happier when each of us can be authentic to who we are. UberPride advocates to build intersectional, supportive, and empowering communities—within Uber’s workplace and across the cities we serve” said UberPride’s Ross Adami.

The Awesome50 Annual List will be published on 20 October 2018 online – www.theawesome50.africa.

You can access the names AWESOME 50 FINAL LIST – 10.10.18 (1).

— ENDS —

For Media Requests, Profiles and Interviews

Motlatsi Motseoile

Curator: The Awesome 50 Annual List

motlatsi@fourfellows.co.za

0837097881

#PrideSoWhite – We are tired of those Pride events in your high-walled embassies!

“Oh, there you go, have a seat, Mademoiselle.” – Anonymous

 

Nairobi, July 10

Authors: Nje-ri, Nzioka

 

#PrideMonth We are tired of those Pride events in your high-walled embassies

Recently, a UK agency staff posted a picture of her, and her colleagues with a rainbow flag in their background celebrating #PrideMonth. It was captioned: ‘Celebrating love and equality British High Commission Nairobi style.”

Nothing to it, right?

The photo op was all white. “Nairobi style,” right?

The Embassy was the British High Commission in Nairobi. You, know, the same British who exported these anti gay laws to their colonies that we are now grappling with.

Fun fact! That in 1967, after leaving a legacy of anti-LGBT legal discrimination to its colonies, Britain decriminalised same sex –  finding it an area of private morality, within which the law had no business. Meanwhile us guys, English Scriptures in hand, retained the laws, terming them critical to our ‘African values’.

Apart from the clear disconnect of what this photo, at its basic, was all about – #PrideSoWhite – it highlighted how race, classism, and disconnect from issues the photo highlighted. It did not help the photo was by a (privileged) white woman. I mean, I might be wrong, but Pride, Nairobi Pride certainly is not experienced exclusively, cannot be curated, presented, curated as white, privileged, cis, albeit…. It also did not help the whole line up was majorly white.

Queer Africans are typically tired of European and American embassies ‘celebrating’ Pride with their one-off photo op with local queer activists who are invited to these high walled, highly secured buildings, forced to show up at 8am for an 12pm event since its how security works, their personal details taken, fingerprinted, IDs and phones taken away, invitation copy ready in hand, have to be forced to dress up for the black tie occasion, served measly teas and biscuits, just to serve a PR stunt by the Ambassadors and their attaches.

Yes, we celebrated Pride, they claim. We got the black, African, poor, gays and lesbians, invited them – you know an invitation from us is like manna from Heaven, they washed up,  put on deo, dressed in fine silk and linen, because we have to stand next to them for the photos.

Did someone hoist the rainbow flag next to ours? Oh, that must be the proverbial mama’s home-made stew in all occasions. The flag. The rainbow flag is important.

Oh, look at the time!

They must leave now. Tea and biscuits is over! We need to close down the embassy. Terrorist thing.

Did someone take a pic of the rainbow flag? Got the black faces with me in them, too? Oh, great!

Dear Embassies and High Commissions, how about funding LGBTI organisations in Kenya? How about involving yourselves in the work – the problematic, emotional, inclusive, defeatist work – that assures Pride? How about celebrating Pride by talking to us how we celebrate Pride. A pride flag at your high walled High Commission does not help us. It never has.

But hey, cheers good buddy! Happy #PrideMonth to you all foreign embassies, High Commissions, and companies who only remember that there is a gay community in Kenya during Pride Month and IDAHOT (May 17).

You invite us poor, black gay Africans to your beautiful residences, we sip on wines we cannot afford, take pictures, and you get to tick a box in your monthly deliverables then continue to deny us refuge, discard our asylum applications and ignore our asks regarding equal partnership and demand flawless audit reports for the past 5 years for us to get a measly 10USD for airtime each month for a whole year.

Yes, we see you. Happy #PrideMonth

*Nje-ri is a queer, feminist, Pan African activist.  The other one is a homo.

#PrideMonth – Why, now than ever, we need Allies to ‘come out’

Even though international sources recognise East African media as one of the most vibrant in the continent, LGBTQI voices are virtually put in the back-burner – to only be used for hits, to distract from issues, to generate comments, or for caricature.  Even more non-existent are “ally” voices – persons who, though not identifying as LGBTIQ, are equally important, in conversations around sex, and sexuality.

An ally is someone who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBTIQ social movement, and challenges the hetero-normative, patriarchal, capitalist, and other interlocking systems of oppression that continue to put down, silence, and shame LGBTIQ persons for who they are, among other injustices.

Allies believe LGBTIQ people face discrimination, and thus are socially, and economically disadvantaged. They aim to use their position to fight against these injustices, raise awareness on the lived realities of LGBTI persons, while promoting the human, and health rights of all persons.

An ally furthers conversations we have around LGBTQI rights – to show that the pursuit for human rights is not just something LGBTQI persons or activists are doing on their own, but they have a pool of friends, family, acquaintances who are supporting their efforts.

This year’s IDAHOT theme was ‘Alliances for Solidarity,’ and was chosen to highlight the to reach out to new partners to raise awareness of our commonalities, and build solidarity within the communities of sexual and gender minorities, as the rights of one specific group cannot be solidly secured if the rights of other groups are left unchallenged.

Allies are uniquely placed to use their spaces and platforms to discuss and promote conversations around sex and sexuality. They are uniquely positioned to inform, direct, and promote open dialogues wherever they are. By doing so, they can respond to some of the reservations that the general population may have on SOGI/E and LGBTQI. They are the main drivers the front runners of these debates. And so they can relate to whoever they speak with.

Everybody deserves to live free from discrimination and violence.  Everybody deserves to grow up being cared for by their families, to have the fighting chance that education provides, to be able to express themselves as they see fit.  None of us would dispute that–except when it comes to those who may identify as being gay or trans.

If you are gay or trans in East Africa, your families may disown you.  You may be thrown out of school.  You may be forced into inappropriate, violent–and lasting–psychiatric or medical processes–that treat you as though you are crazy.  Or take away your choice about your bodily expression.

It is our collective responsibility to stand up for and alongside those East Africans who identify as gay or trans.  There are those who already doing so, and they do not identify as gay or trans – they are your everyday down-to-earth-saints.  We salute their courage which we hope will inspire all East Africans to do the right thing as well.  It is long overdue.

We are rioting – #PrideMonth should not be calendar month – but a living reality

June is often celebrated as Pride Month – a time to celebrate the diversity of sexualities, and gender identities. Most importantly, it is a time to bring visible the lives, stories, and experiences, of persons who identify as LGBTIQ.

In most African countries, LGBTIQ persons continue to live in hiding, out of fear of being ‘outed’, or being targeted for who they are. Stories of evictions, threats, arrests, and killings, have filled our newspapers, pointing, sadly, to a lived reality for so many of us who identify as LGBTIQ.

Pride Month was set aside to honour the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, US. Dubbed the first gay pride, the events leading to the riots are commemorated as the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the US.

Which is why Pride Month matters to us, Africans.

You see, that first Pride was a riot. It was a group of queer, and trans persons, fed up by constant police raids, and arrests, who decided enough is enough. The tipping point had been reached.

But why should a 1960’s American event resonate here? Perhaps, it is important to point out that LGBTIQ Africans continue to face the same challenges that these 1960’s queers were facing – an unwelcoming society, a stereotypical media, a corrupt police force, and invisibility. And shame to be themselves.

Hence, they decided to venture into spaces such as clubs, and bars, where they could be themselves, associate, talk, learn, and share their experiences as they supported one another.

But, as if that was not enough, they came to be attacked in their safe spaces – their sanctums. This was not a police raid; this was an attack on themselves. The police represented all their oppression. And they reacted to that oppression by standing their ground. No more, they chanted!

This was the tipping point.

Most LGBTIA Africans have also reached their tipping points – we have seen wonderful visible campaigns, Pride marches, and more, and more activists coming out to challenge the system – and people – that put them down. We have seen them marching on streets, we have seen them in our newspapers, we have seen them sharing with the less fortunate, we have seen them in courts, we have seen them in Kilimani Mums.

Our Pride Month is not about a calendar month – it’s a lived reality. Everyday we face our fears, challenge oppression, and seek to be more visible, and open.

We are rioting. Not noticed that yet?

Image: Revellers are seen at Uganda’s second annual gay pride parade in Entebbe, August 3, 2013. (Hilary Heuler/for VOA)

(More) gay dating apps are not the solution

 

The other day, I got called

To a meeting

With some high end entrepreneurs

Canadian

Had the solution to all gay African problems

Kenyans to begin with

Ha!

 

App

Yes, an App

To meet other gays

Like Grindr

But theirs was ‘better’

Safer

More control

 

They went meeting the people tour

Kisumu. Mombasa. Nairobi.

Bought twinks coffee, and Java – did the whole live video thingi

Fake English accents.

Some faggot called me to tell me they wanted to see me

I am the person to talk to in Kenya

About gays. About Apps. About selling cheap merchandise

 

Ha!

 

I refused.

Told my GALCK broker – if they are not selling me a business idea, they can do all they want

Kenya does not need dating Apps

Or white folks using black influencers to sell cheap merchandise

Or to change the UNAIDS leadership

I/we refuse to be used anymore

For commerce/politicking

 

We do not need more gay dating Apps.

We have dated. With or without them

Safely. Soundly. Securely.

 

Want to sell a merchandise?

Buy the gays booze, go to their bars, buy them drinks

Do Java, live-feed the croissants

Take photos – photos are important for marketing

Get on Grindr – check for dates – yes, because you not using your own bloody App

Who would have thought?

Yes, ma’faka I saw you ‘close to me’ on Grindr

What was it? 150m?

 

You have an App to sell.

Liiv on your own terms.