Kenneth Macharia arrived in the UK from Kenya in 2009 as a student and has been fighting a long struggle since then to remain in the UK rather than being forced to return to Kenya. Macharia is a mechanical engineer, rugby player and gay man who is fighting to stay in the UK rather than go back to Kenya where he will face discrimination, prosecution and harassment for being a gay man. It is simply not safe to be LGBT in Kenya and Macharia had hoped that the UK would accept his bid for asylum on those grounds for him to remain permanently. Unfortunately, the UK Home Office has rejected his bid.
Macharia is a member of the Bristol Bisons, an LGBTQI inclusive rugby club who is part of the International Gay Rugby Union. Macharia’s teammates and fellow ruggers have stood with him during his fight to stay and supported him by taking action to share his story, raise funds and even circulated a petition with over 100,000 signatures calling on the Home Office to accept his bid. While the Home Office acknowledged that gay sex in Kenya is punishable and can lead to prison and LGBT people are often subjected to harassment, blackmail, and sexual assault. They sent Macharia a letter with their decision and that he must leave the country “without delay.” The letter from the UK Home Office stated…
“Whilst same-sexual activity between men has been criminalised with a penalty of up to 21 years in prison this law is rarely applied and the objective evidence does not establish that LGBT persons are likely to be subjected to persecution or serious harm.”
“162. Any person who – (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.”
“163. Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in section 162 is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.“
“165. Any male person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another male person, or procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself or with another male person, whether in public or private, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for five years.“
The news came as a shock to Macharia and everybody who has supported him throughout this process, leaving him feeling depressed and hopeless about his future. The Bristol Bisons released a statement in response to the decision, which reads…
Our clubs very existence is to support LGBT+ people and their allies to be who they are and to play the sport they love. This is the reason Ken joined our club nearly 3 years ago.
The Home Office’s decision to refuse asylum to Ken on the grounds that it is safe to be a homosexual in Kenya; despite the threat of 21 years imprisonment, reports of attacks and rapes on the LGBT+ community and no legal protection against homophobia or discrimination in Kenya, is completely abhorrent.
This week the Home Office changed its logo to include the pride flag and colours in support of pride month and yet; behind closed doors, has treated our friend like this. For this reason The Bisons will not be displaying the pride colours until The Home Office either grants Ken asylum, or removes the pride colours from their logo.
This week The Bristol Bisons will travel to Dublin to attend the Union Cup – a tournament designed to celebrate inclusive rugby. We are all terrified that Ken will not be here when we return.
Ken is due to report to Bridgewater Police Center on Bristol Road tomorrow at 11am as he must register as an Asylum seeker every month. We expect the Home Office to detain Ken when he arrives. We have not had any comment from his MP, James Heappey
Our Club Captain will be supporting Ken with a few friends of the Bisons – and we would like you to join us.
If you’re available – please meet us to support Ken outside Bridgwater Police Center at 10:30am, in time for Ken to register at 11am. We will be be wearing our club colour, Pink, so please feel free to do the same.
Bristol Bisons Committee 05.06.19 #keepkenhome
The decision from the UK Home Office comes days after Kenya’s High Court upheld the laws that criminalize gay sex last month. Macharia arrived in the UK in 2009 as a student who graduated and is currently a mechanical design engineer. He has twice been granted extensions to remain as a student and then as a highly skilled migrant. His initial claim for asylum was rejected in October 2016 but that hasn’t stopped Macharia or the Bristol Bisons from continuing to fight for his right to stay. His struggle has including having to prove that he is gay, which was eventually accepted by a judge and also arguing that he will face persecution in Kenya which have been dismissed.
Unfortunately, the increasing media attention that Macharia’s story has attracted since his initial bid as elevated him to a higher profile that will make him more recognizable in Kenya as a gay man. Many articles have been published in Kenyan newspapers and online publications and have included homophobic, discriminatory and hateful comments directed specifically at him.
The Home Office letter cited their own document from March 2017 that noted that “same-sex sexual activity between men is criminalized with a penalty of up to 21 years in prison … it is not clear if there have been any convictions” and that “Sources suggest that the law on ‘unnatural offences” is rarely applied and there have only been two recent reported cases of its use, one of which was dismissed and the other still ongoing at the time of publication.” However, the document also recognized that the police have arrested “some LGBT persons” and acknowledged that “The police have also reportedly harassed LGBT persons, or those believed to be so, and have subjected some to blackmail and rape. Public order laws have been used by the police as a means to arrest LGBT persons, especially those working in the sex industry.”
Despite these acknowledgments, the document argued that…
“Taking the above objective evidence into full consideration alongside the reports enclosed, there is no evidence to support your claim that homosexual’s [sic] in Kenya suffer persecution by either the state or non-state actors.
“It is also noted from the above objective evidence that effective state protection is likely to be available which you could access should you fear reprisals from mob justice or other people. There is nothing to show that you would be persecuted by the state as a result of your sexual orientation as a homosexual”
The Bisons and other advocates for Ken have criticized the Home Office for their blatant hypocrisy in adopting a rainbow flag in support of LGBTQI Pride Month in June while at the same time refusing Macharia’s asylum bid and their failure to understand the status of LGBTQI rights and the persecution of LGBTQI people in Kenya. The Bisons have stated that they will refused to fly the rainbow colors until the Home Office either accepts Macharia’s asylum bid or removes the rainbow logos from their social media and website.
The decision is disappointing and frustrating for Macharia and all of his supporters, but they haven’t given up yet. Macharia is consulting with his lawyer about what he can do and the Bisons are planning to rally for Ken at the Bridgwater Police Center in Bristol at 1030am on 06/06/19 as he goes to check in where he is expected to be detained.
By Dirk Smith