Chauvinistic Narratives: Misinformation Against Kenya’s LGBTIQ+ Community

By Tracy Bonareri

September 13, 2023 stands out as a landmark date in Kenya’s history, marking the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of the registration of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), and in turn all NGOs advocating for LGBTIQ+ rights, under the NGOs Coordination Board of Kenya. The ruling ends a decade-long court battle between NGLHRC and the NGOs Coordination Board.

Because the NGLHRC advocates for the rights of persons in same-sex relationships, which is illegal under Kenya’s penal code, the board had refused to register the organization.However, the Supreme Court deemed this denial discriminatory, evoking mixed reactions from the public.

Following this ruling, some members of the public, politicians, and religious leaders expressed their disapproval. Users echoing these sentiments took to social media to spread misinformation regarding the LGBTIQ+ community in Kenya, using deep fakes, fake digital cards, coordinated posts, and misleading captions on videos to support their claims.

Disinformation and coordinated posts

In the wake of LGBTIQ+ activist Edwin Chiloba’s murder, a digital card, purportedly from was circulated, falsely claiming that Kenyan President William Ruto allegedly endorsed the killing of homosexual individuals. Those spreading these claims capitalised on Ruto’s opposition to same-sex relationships in Kenya. Despite being debunked as fake, other accounts reposted the digital card, giving it a wider reach.

Adding to the wave of misinformation, a Facebook page under the username Lightcast TV Kenya shared a video featuring Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Shollei addressing parliament. Alongside the video is the caption; “Blow to LGBTQ Community as the parliament unanimously pass the bill to ban homosexuality and same-gender marriage in Kenya”.

However, the post by Lightcast TV Kenya illustrates a clear example of a false caption attached to valid footage. This tactic highlights the deceptive use of misleading captions on videos to validate unsupported claims. The parliamentary motion that was titled, ‘Kupiga marufuku uzungumziaji na uchapishaji na usambazaji wa taarifa zinazo kuza mahusiano ya jinsia moja’ which translates to ‘The banning of discussion, publication, and dissemination of LGBTIQ+ content’ was tabled by Nyali MP Mohammed Ali in March 2023.

The Bill mainly called for the ban on the publication of LGBTIQ+ content. Not homosexuality and same-sex marriages in Kenya. A similar law was also passed in neighbouring Tanzania.

Screengrab of the bill by Mohammed Ali

Further fuelling the misinformation, a series of coordinated posts against the LGBTIQ+ community emerged between March and October 2023. The posts featured a clip alleging that US President Joe Biden referred to the LGBTIQ+ community as “a crude mockery of nature’s perfection”, claiming that members of the community bring shame and disgust to their parents, who would apparently feel relieved if they “died by suicide”. Accompanying these posts was the caption; ‘At last the first President in the world has said it, in clear, simple and unmistakable English. Homosexuality is not natural and is also a debasement of mankind and has no place in modern civilization. I admire the force and beauty of this communication.’

However, a Google reverse image search revealed that the video was a deep fake. The original clip dated back to January 25, 2023, when Biden announced the US would send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine amid the war with Russia.

Screengrabs of the coordinated posts.

The media has unfortunately also played a role in spreading disinformation against the LGBTIQ+ community. A video uploaded on Nation’s YouTube channel, with over one million subscribers, features former President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the public with a misleading caption. The caption reads “President Uhuru’s harsh warning to the LGBTQ+ community,” in a video uploaded on November 8, 2019.

The video is indeed from November 8, 2019, when the then president was presiding over a high-level forum with community elders from 22 counties to discuss ending female genital mutilation by 2022. He is not addressing the LGBTIQ+ community as the misleading caption alleges.

The Political Landscape of Homophobia

It’s widely known that certain Kenyans unquestioningly follow politicians, treating their words as absolute truth. Sadly, our political leaders have also evidently contributed to the homophobic language used on social media. These politicians frequently make provocative statements often meant to incite. Unfortunately, individuals act on these statements leading to division within the community.

Homophobic statements directed at Kenya’s LGBTIQ+ community from Kenya’s political class in various instances here and here, worsen their marginalisation and discrimination. These remarks not only legitimise prejudice but also risk inciting violence and discrimination against community members. Their statements keep alive harmful stereotypes and contribute to disseminating misinformation about the community, threatening their safety and security.

Such instances include utterances by Nyali MP Mohammed Ali who publicly expressed his disapproval of the LGBTIQ+ community, as evidenced here and here. In an interview, Ali quotes the Bible and the Quran while condemning the LGBTIQ+ community. He states that LGBTIQ+ individuals should be “punished the way God wants them to be punished,” citing Leviticus 20:13.

In another interview, Ali expressed his support for the Family Protection bill proposal claiming that every single member is waiting for that vote which aims to expel the LGBTIQ+ from Kenya. In his words, the intention is  “To kick them out. To kick LGBTQ+ out of Kenya completely.” Such utterances, are often used to justify discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ+ individuals.

Ali’s remarks indicate why political figures should be mindful of their language and its potential impact on marginalized communities. Expressing disapproval is one matter, but advocating for the expulsion of a vulnerable group from society sends a dangerous message of exclusion and intolerance.

Such public rhetoric that blatantly promotes violence against the LGBTIQ+ community has led to actual physical harm. According to Galck+, 53 percent of people in the LGBTIQ+ community in Kenya have been physically assaulted. Only 29 percent report their assaults to the police because they are often revictimized, frequently disregarded and trivialised, even by law enforcement- the galck+ report states.

This article was produced by Tracy Bonareri with support from the Initiative for Equality and Non Discrimination (INEND) to fact-check LGBTQ+ rhetoric in public spaces, online and offline.


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