Edwin Chiloba murder: LGBTQ+ community afraid to report IPV
The murder of Kenyan Edwin Chiloba, allegedly at the hands of his partner, has highlighted the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people in reporting intimate partner violence, especially in countries where homosexuality is criminalised.
Chiloba’s body was found stuffed into a metal box on the side of the road near the town of Eldoret in Uasin Gishu county on 3 January. His murder made global headlines, with many initially assuming that his death was a hate crime.
According to the authorities, however, Chiloba’s partner, Jacktone Odhiambo, a freelance photographer, confessed to the murder, apparently because he believed that Chiloba had cheated on him.
The 25-year-old model, fashion designer and activist’s cause of death has since been revealed. “From our findings, he died because of asphyxia which is caused by smothering,” chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor told reporters.
He noted that socks had been stuffed into Chiloba’s mouth and a scrap from a pair of jeans had been tied around his mouth and nose. Discolouration of his nails indicated a lack of oxygen.
In a joint statement, several LGBTQ+ and human rights organisations – including local LGBTQ+ group Galck and Amnesty International Kenya – commended the Kenyan authorities for their swift investigation into the murder, which has resulted in the arrest of five individuals, including Odhiambo.
They called for the Directorate of Criminal Investigations “to replicate this determination and enthusiasm” and act to close pending cases concerning other LGBTQ+ individuals, such as Sheila Lumumba, who was raped and killed in Karatina, Nyeri County in April 2022.
The organisations also said Chiloba’s murder highlighted the rise in Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) experienced in Kenya.
They pointed out that Kenya’s existing legal landscape “makes it near impossible for sexual and gender minorities to report cases of IPV, fearing arrest, self-incrimination and further harm”.
Under Kenya’s colonial-era penal code provisions, same-sex sexuality is punishable with up to 14 years in prison, which means that anyone who reports violence by their same-sex partner to police could themselves be jailed simply for coming forward.
The groups called on Kenya to repeal sections 162 and 165 of the penal code that criminalise consensual relations by LGBTQ+ persons “creating an environment for violence to thrive and go unpunished”.
They also urged leaders and the media to “exercise restraint in their language and actions”, adding that “homophobic and hate-based rhetoric by leaders and media sensationalisation of Edwin Chiloba’s murder only serves to incite violence against queer Kenyans”.
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