Four gay men were the victims of a Valentine’s Day attack in the low-income Kawangware area northwest of Nairobi, Kenya.

By Levis Maina

On Valentine’s Day, 14th February 2017, in the Nairobi slum area of Kawangware, four gay men were attacked at home. Two of them were badly hurt. Two others escaped with less serious injuries.

Levis Maina, founder and executive director of the Sullivan Reed Society

It was 9 p.m., and Kevin and his lover John had a double date with two other friends, Peter and Eric. (For safety, all those names are pseudonyms.)

Kevin, who is gay but was forced to marry, was happy that his wife was upcountry and he could be himself. He lives in a single room in the low-income area of Kawangware. His neighbours had long suspected he was gay, because he would bring men to his house. The neighbors and his  landlady planned on catching him one day — and catch him they did.

On Valentine’s Day, while the gay couples were busy having sex, the next-door neighbour heard their moans and screams of pleasure, and decided to call others. They gathered outside the door to Kevin’s room. One of them knocked hard on the door, and the unsuspecting Kevin opened it to find  about eight people standing there. He was only dressed in his shorts. His lover on the bed with nothing on.

Luckily for his friends Peter and Eric, they were dressed. The crowd rained blows from fists and heavy sticks on them.

One woman cried out, “We are here dying for men to have sex with us, and you are busy screwing other men. What don’t we have?”

Another said, “These are the things we don’t want here. We will kill all of you, and burn you! This is an abomination.”

If not for one woman who pleaded with the mob to spare the four friends, they might have been burned.

Some of the attackers asked Kevin why he would have sex with a man even though he is married with a four-month-old baby. He replied that he had always been gay  and had known it since he was 12 years old. His sisters arranged for him to marry a girl, which he did. He said he has tried every way he knew of to become heterosexual, but nothing changed.

His lover John confessed that he was a male sex worker. The two others said they were just friends and hadn’t done anything.

Market in Kawangware, which is about 15 kilometers west of Nairobi’s city center. (Photo courtesy of Family Life Healing Initiative)

The landlady demanded that Kevin and his friends leave her house immediately. A friend who lives nearby took them in and helped with first aid. The Sullivan Reed Society, an LGBT non-profit, provided some assistance the following day.

Kenyan doctors are on strike, so the friends’ treatment has been limited to over-the-counter painkillers. Kevin is still seeking a new place to stay.

As executive director of the Sullivan Reed Society, which helps with economic empowerment, workplace diversity and innovative health solutions to the LGBT community in Kenya, I urge LGBT community members of the community to be careful these days. During election times,  homophobic hate is often propagated by  political leaders.

We hope to help provide better medical care for the four victims as soon as possible. We are committed to wellness for members of the LGBT community. We believe and hope that someday all good people will be able to live full lives, no matter what their sexual orientation.

Levis Maina is the founder and executive director of the Sullivan Reed Society, which you can visit online at or follow on Twitter at @SullivanReedKE.



In cooperation with Erasing 76 Crimes