Nairobi at night
Kenyan police are reported to be on the hunt for a group of blackmailers who target married and closeted gay men.
According to Identity Kenya, LGBT activists have been unsuccessful in tracking down the group which operates in the capital Nairobi, but the police are investigating reported cases.
The criminals pose as gay men and lure closeted men into meeting them through Facebook and dating sites such as GayRomeo, Gaydar and Manjam.
The blackmailers may rob and then threaten their victims with exposing their sexuality to their community or family unless they are paid.
Because homosexual acts are illegal and a social taboo in Kenya many victims are unwilling to report the crime.
The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) recently issued a statement about the blackmail cartel, warning that “blackmail and extortion cases are on the rise”.
The organisation noted that police have struggled to catch the culprits because the blackmailers keep changing where they operate from.
According to GALCK’s Legal Officer Anthony Oluoch, “Blackmail and extortion is illegal in Kenya and LGBTI victims should not hesitate to report such cases.
“A blackmail case shall be treated as such regardless of the circumstances that landed you in the hands of the blackmailers,” he said.
GALCK said that if victims came forward to the organisation, its community associate officer would take the matter forward with the police.
A 2011 report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said that LGBT people in Africa are often regularly blackmailed and extorted because of their sexuality.
It stated that LGBT Africans are made doubly vulnerable by the criminalisation of homosexuality and the often-violent stigmatisation they face if their sexuality is revealed.
The report also accused many states of playing a role in these crimes by ignoring blackmail and extortion carried out by police and other officials by failing to prosecute blackmailers, and by charging LGBT victims under sodomy laws when they do find the courage to report blackmail to the authorities.