Kenya’s general election is slowly gearing up, with the elections slated for 9th August 2022. Any electioneering period in the country has always been marred with cases of violence, and members of the LGBTQI+ community have been victims of the violence. The political environment of hostility and violence has unfortunately enabled homophobes to act on their hatred under the disguise of ‘ethnic tensions.’ Increased cases of violence during this period has forced some members of the LGBTQI+ community to take a back seat, shunning their democratic right to vote. This coupled up with the fact that the protection of their rights never comes up in the political aspirants’ manifestos leaves substantial parts of the LGBTQI+ community disheartened.
Despite these cases of violence that have discouraged the community, LGBTQI+ organizations have on the contrary been most vocal in sensitizing and calling upon their members to register as voters and calling for their protection against violence during the electioneering period. For instance, Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination (INEND) has actively been leading an online campaign dubbed #QueeringTheBallot since mid-June 2022 on its Twitter page.
The campaign has picked up with discussions on how the LGBTQI+ can vote wisely and be intentional about their votes. Judging by the comments on the Twitter space, this dialogue has motivated quite a number of members of the LGBTQI+ community to be involved in the voting process and ensure that they cast their votes in the election.
Ensuring that every person regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation has the opportunity to participate in voting processes is fundamental; and practices that perpetuate violence against this community in Kenya discriminate against them and need to be addressed. The UN General Assembly in its resolution on Strengthening the role of the United Nations in the promotion of democratization and enhancing periodic and genuine elections, specifically stresses that it is the obligation of all States to:
“… take all appropriate measures to ensure that every citizen has the effective right and opportunity to participate in elections on an equal basis, and calls upon States to take measures to eliminate laws, regulations and practices that discriminate, directly or indirectly, against citizens in their right to participate in public affairs, including based on race, colour, ethnicity, national or social origin, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, language, religion, political views or on the basis of disability.”UNGA, ‘Strengthening the role of the United Nations in the promotion of democratization and enhancing periodic and genuine elections’, A/RES/76/176 (highlights by the author)
The UN resolution thus identifies the need for States to ensure, amongst others, that violent practices that discriminate against the LGBTQI+ are not cordoned. One way of ensuring lessened discriminatory practices is facilitating the involvement of LGBTQI+ organizations and individuals as election observers. Their involvement in the electoral process means that there is assurance of the community’s effective participation in elections, and that violence is also eradicated.
Perhaps as a move to ensure that there is effective participation of the LGBTQI+ in the upcoming Kenyan general election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the first time has accepted as election observers several LGBTQI+ organizations including INEND which is spearheading the #QueeringTheBallot campaign. These organizations representing as election observers instill confidence in the LGBTQI+ community about the importance of their involvement in the voting process and it highlights the push for a more equal and better protected right to vote by everyone. Additionally, cases of violence against them also drastically reduce with the presence of these organizations in the voting processes as election observers are integral in prevention of violence.
While it is disturbing that cases of violence against the community may still be reported, it is definitely a positive step that LGBTQI+ organizations are actively showing members of the community that they can in fact safely exercise their right to vote without fear. Further, the election observer status of some of these organizations definitely rubber stamps the importance of the LGBTQI+ vote in Kenya.
Linah Aduda is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. Also, she is an Alumna of the Tanzanian-German Centre for Eastern African Legal Studies (TGCL) at the University of Dar es Salaam School of Law in cooperation with the University of Bayreuth.
 Arcus Foundation, ‘Data Collection and Reporting on Violence Perpetrated Against LGBTQI Persons in Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Uganda’ (2019) p 34-35, <https://www.arcusfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Iranti-Violence-Against-LGBTQI-Persons-in-Botswana-Kenya-Malawi-South-Africa-Uganda.pdf> accessed 25 July, 2022.
 <https://twitter.com/hashtag/QueeringTheBallot?src=hashtag_click> accessed 25 July, 2022.
 UNGA, ‘Strengthening the role of the United Nations in the promotion of democratization and enhancing periodic and genuine elections’, A/RES/76/176 <https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/3954961?ln=en> accessed 25 July, 2022.
 Ace Project, <https://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/ge/ge6/promoting-lgbti-participation-through-election> accessed 25 July, 2022.
 Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination, <https://twitter.com/INENDorg/status/1529353404694290432> accessed 25 July, 2022.
 United States Institute of Peace, ‘Violence Prevention through Election Observation’, p 2-3 <https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/2020-08/20200824-pw_165-violence_prevention_through_election_observation-pw.pdf> accessed 1 August, 2022.