Kenya: Lesbian ‘held hostage by family’ died by suicide, reports say

Dan Littauer June 14, 2012
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According to unconfirmed reports a lesbian who was being held hostage by her parents died by suicide in desperation last night in Kenya.

The woman, identified as Joan Sandy Achieng, was living and working in Nairobi until her parents discovered her sexuality, which led them to hold her hostage and marry her off to an older man.

According to reports received by Denis Nzioka, editor of Identity Kenya, an LGBT Kenyian Magazine, Achieng was attacked and stabbed by her girlfriend.

When her parents discovered the attacker was, in fact, her girlfriend they removed her from Nairobi to their home in the small rural town of Mbita Point, in Western Kenya, to ‘ensure she is under their control and monitoring’, said Nzioka.

She was held as a hostage in her parent’s home since March.

Achieng’s parents allegedly cut her off from the world by confiscating her mobile phone and instructed her brother to ‘watch over her’, reported Nzioka.

In addition her close friends reported they were stalked by unknown persons and when some attempted to visit her in Mbita they were attacked.

‘Her parents found one of her friends within the compound and thoroughly smashed the windows of her car, threatening to take legal action if they found her anywhere near their compound,’ a report received by Nzioka claims.

Nzioka also said that her parents had asked an older male friend of the family to ‘impregnate’ her. It is also alleged that the two were ‘married off’ secretly as part of this plan. Achieng is reported to have said she was regularly abused.

Three days before her suicide Achieng made a call to one of her close friends and said ‘she had had enough and was ready to take her life and the misery that had become her life,’ Nzioka said. ‘She promised to call again to update her friends on her situation, but sadly, that call never came through.’

Nzioka also stated: ‘According to a source close to the family, Joan was found dead in her parent’s house in what appeared to be a suicide. The source said they will provide more information only after the burial.’

The case is being investigated and followed by Kenyian lesbian activists and Achieng’s close friends.

Nzioka commented: “The suicide of Joan and the other four lesbians reported to us is worrying on two accounts.

“One, there are similar patterns in these cases – the victims were either forced, coerced into marriages by either their parents or close family for them to turn straight; this is worrying – it shows that parents or relatives assume marriage to someone of the opposite sex is the answer to homosexuality but it’s not.

“The level of misery, unhappiness and sadness that the person faces in such arrangements is enormous and suicide, sadly, to them is seen as the only option out. How many shall die like this before action is taken?

“Secondly, this trend shows that there is no family support for LGBT children, sons and daughters. Additionally, forcing women to marriage is an archaic, draconian act, be it done for cultural, political, religious or in our case, sexual reason. No woman should be forced to something against her will.

“The past couple of months we have experienced violations in form of violence, murders, harassment, forced marriage targeting the LGBT community. Homophobia is still widespread in Kenya and very few people are willing to come out and talk.

“We are working hard to change this; there are plans to start anti-hate campaigns (one currently run by Minority Women in Action called Stop The Hate Campaign) and to sensitize the Kenyan public to be more accepting and receptive to their fellow LGBT citizens.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, with gay sexual acts punishable by five to 14 years imprisonment.

More: Africa, Africa, Anti-gay, death, Gay, Kenya, lesbian, suicide

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