As Kenyan society continues to accept the existence of a growing queer community, different sector players are slowly joining in the calls to protect and respect the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people.
Entertainment joints, including bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in Kenya, create safe spaces within their establishments specifically for the LGBTQ community.
This move aims to enhance LGBTQ security and protect customers from the vulnerability of attacks and ridicule from those targeting them in public places.
James Mwangi, a manager at the popular Lidos Club in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, says that the secluded LGBTQ rooms in the bar are a haven for gay, lesbian and transgender party-goers who would feel unsafe in an ordinary bar.
“We have given them their own spaces from where they can enjoy their time as they drink and make merry. There is nobody to ask them why they are holding hands or dressed the way they are dressed,” he said.
At Salido Club on the outskirts of the capital, the club owner, besides creating LGBTQ security spaces, has employed gay and lesbian waiters and waitresses who serve the LBGTQ clients.
“They feel safe and secure when served with one of their own who they can trust,” said Anne Wamaitha, the club’s manager.
“They have their separate counter operated by one of their own who they can interact with freely”, she added.
To further enhance the security and safety of LGBTQ members who visit clubs and bars, separate washrooms have been set aside for them after increased cases of gays who were assaulted both sexually and physically inside bar washrooms.
The Kenya urban bar association has instructed all its members to allocate separate rooms inside their premises to members of the queer community and always guarantee them security whenever they visit.
The association’s chairperson Ernest Wambua says that just like any other person visiting bars and entertainment joints, gays and lesbians must be treated with the utmost respect.
Bar owners have also been instructed by the association to block any clients engaged in acts aimed at demeaning and harassing any member of the LGBTQ community.
“They are like any other client, and we have no reason to discriminate against them or keep quiet whenever they are harassed,” said Wambua.
Many times, gays and lesbians have been forced to confront the fear of their drinks being spiked while in bars and entertainment spots. In contrast, others have been forced to pay bouncers to guard them when visiting washrooms within bars.
Human rights groups have in the past threatened to name and shame any bar or entertainment establishment where gay and lesbian customers are attacked and harassed based on their sexuality.
Before creating safe spaces in bars because of frequent attacks targeting them, most LGBTQ community members who wanted to drink and socialise would hold house parties to guarantee their own safety.
Audrey Wadinyo is a 28-year old lesbian who serves as a bartender in a classy bar in Nairobi. She says that LGBTQ safe spaces within bars have made them feel like any other human being.
“Initially, we would feel inferior whenever we visited bars, but now with the safe spaces, we can have all the fun just like any other person.”
Natala Ntambo, who lives and works in Nairobi, says that gone are the days when they would lose friends and partners to attacks within entertainment joints.
“In the past, we lost quite a lot of gay people who were either attacked or poisoned within bars, but these safe spaces have helped to change that trend,” he said.
He added, “At least nowadays, we can have our fun in peace without having to turn back and look who is around you or who is monitoring you.”
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