Justice for Sheila — The Non-Binary Lesbian in Kenya Murdered in Cold Blood
By Christine Siamanta Kinori
CONTENT WARNING: Descriptions of sexual and physical violence
The LGBTQ+ community in Kenya took to social media last week to call for the justice of a 25-year-old non- binary lesbian Sheila Lumumba who was murdered in cold blood. Sheila was attacked in their own home by six men and their body was discovered three days later after their colleagues noticed they failed to report to work.
Reports claim that six men broke into their home where they proceeded to carry out the odious attack. Sheila was found in a pool of their own blood and their autopsy revealed that they had been raped, strangled, stabbed several times in the neck and eyes, and their leg had been broken.
Many Kenyans took to social media to condemn the heinous murder of Sheila. Safina Amooti, an activist in Kenya, tweeted, “64% if not more of LGBTQ+ people have experienced anti-LGBT+ violence. Homophobic hate crimes are a serious issue that the CJS (Chief Justice) needs to respond to.”
The plight for the LGBTQ+ community in Kenya continues to go unnoticed as many victims of hate crimes fail to get justice. Last year, a queer Kenyan activist known as Joash Mosoti was also killed in his own home. A few months before his death, Mosoti had raised concerns about his safety but unfortunately, he didn’t get help. He was attacked, tortured and strangled to death by unknown people in his house.
Erica Chandra, a trans woman, was also brutally killed last year and her body dumped along the road. She worked for ‘JINSIANGU’ an organization whose slogan is ‘Creating safe space for the existence of intersex, transgender and gender nonconforming (ITGNC) individuals.’ Unfortunately, many queer people in Kenya are found dead or missing under unclear circumstances and barely any justice is served. Most of these cases don’t even make the headlines.
As many people took to social media to demand justice for Sheila, others took the opportunity to post homophobic messages that further goes to show the reality of the constant attacks queer Kenyans get online. One queer lady tweeted, “Sheila and I are both 25 and lesbians. I can’t rest because I am one statistic away from being this. I can’t rest because I know my silence will mean Sheila’s death goes unpunished.”
Others expressed that even though they don’t support LGBTQ+ rights, they condemn the killing of queer Kenyans because everyone has a right to live. Queer Kenyans have been trying for decades to get protection laws and to decriminalize homosexuality, but their efforts have been thwarted every time.
The DCI Kenya (Directorate of Criminal Investigations) and the National Kenyan Police Service have yet to release a statement on the case of Sheila’s murder and no one has been arrested. Their family and friends held a vigil last Saturday to remember them as the wonderful, loving human being they were. Hopefully their six assailants will be brought to justice in due time.
I hope that queer Kenyans will stand strong and raise their voices for justice. We are all more than our sexuality- we are at our very core human beings and for that simple reason we deserve to live to see the next day. Our lives are just as meaningful as heterosexuals and our sexuality is not an excuse to murder us in cold-blood or harass and frustrate us. Queer lives matter too.
About the Author:
Christine Siamanta Kinori grew up in a little village in Kenya known as Loitoktok near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. All she wanted to do when she grew up was to explore the world. Her curiosity led her to join Nairobi University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She later got a job with an amazing travel magazine Nomad Africa which gave her the opportunity to explore Africa. She also writes for numerous travel websites about Africa and tries to create a new narrative in the media about our aesthetic continent.
Christine claims to have somewhat unhealthy addiction to TV and reading, as it is a fun way to keep herself occupied during the long journeys for her travel writing. She is also a believer of letting people be their beautiful selves. To her, love is love and it is the greatest gift we have as humans.