Days after a man’s lifeless body was found stuffed inside a metallic box in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, local police have identified the body as Edwin Chiloba, a prominent LGBTQ+ activist, fashion designer and high fashion model.
The body was discovered by a Bodaboda – motorbike taxi – rider who saw a vehicle dump the box along the road and subsequently alerted the police. When the police opened the box, they saw Chiloba’s decomposing body dressed in women’s clothing. His body was then taken to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital for an autopsy to be carried out.
Chiloba was quite popular in Eldoret town in Uasin Gishu County, where he pursued a degree in fashion and design at the University of Eldoret and was awarded the “Mr University of Eldoret” title. Chiloba had a fashion brand called Chilobadesigns which primarily focused on gender-fluid clothing. In an interview he shared on his Instagram page, he spoke of how his brand represented diversity and inclusion. Both he and his brand had over 10,000 followers on the social media platform.
Since the news of his gruesome murder broke, many have flocked to his last Instagram post –which was made on December 29 – to express their heartbreak and condolences. In the post, Chiloba cheerfully reflected on the past year and expressed his hopes for 2023, including achieving more feats in the fashion industry.
One of the comments on the post from popular Kenyan business mogul Michelle Ntalami read, in part: “To imagine the pain, darkness and torture you went through in your last moments breaks my heart into pieces… Thank you for what you brought into this world: love, truth, empathy, style.”
According to local news reports, Chiloba had been a victim of a hate crime in July, but luckily survived. It is widely believed that his killing was also an anti-LGBTQ+ attack.
The latter attack is speculated to have happened on New Year’s eve as a video of him dancing with friends in the same clothes his body was found in surfaced.
The Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has released a statement condemning the attack and calling for justice to be served.
“The killing is reprehensible and unjust. This is a frightening crime but it is becoming common in Kenya with the recent tide in reports of threats, assault and killings of LGBTQ+ persons fueled by a culture of homophobia… Let us not forget that LGBTIQ rights are HUMAN rights,” read the statement in part.
In April last year, the killing of non-binary lesbian Sheila Lumumba sparked outrage and trending hashtag #JusticeforSheila on social media.
In 2021, transgender woman Erica Chandra and LGBTQ activist Joash Mosoti were also brutally murdered.
Kenya’s Anti-LGBTQ+ History
Kenya is far from gay-friendly. Gay sex is punishable by 14 years in prison. While the law is hardly enforced, gay discrimination is rampant in the East African country.
In September last year, the Kenyan Film Classification Board (KFCB) placed a ban on the screening of all movies with LGBTQ content.
“If there is any content that normalises or glorifies same-sex relationships, our position in Kenya has always been that kind of content is restricted and should not be broadcasted, exhibited or distributed within the borders of the country,” stressed KFCB Acting CEO Christopher Kambua.
However, Kenya is not the only African country with a hostile climate for the LGBTQ community. According to a 2019 report by DW, 32 of the 72 countries that criminalised homosexuality worldwide were said to be on the continent, mostly as a result of sustained British colonial era laws.
However, the pervasiveness of religions like Christianity and Islam also heavily influence anti-gay discrimination in these countries. Whatever the case, many Africans maintain that homosexuality is simply “un-African”.
Other African countries with strong anti-gay laws include Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt, Libya and so on.
Sources: Nation, Reuters, Nairobi News