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Edwin Chiloba And A Country Defined By Violence

How many deaths will it take for this country to start protecting queer lives?

BY Beryl Karimi-La Patrona

Jan 06, 2023, 02:11 PM

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Edwin Chiloba

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"So, my movement is for everyone. It's about inclusion. If I am going to fight for what I have been marginalized for, I will fight for all marginalized people." Edwin Chiloba.

I can only write about him in the past tense because he is gone. He was violently murdered in Usain Gishu county and his body was found stashed in a metal box.

His murder was painfully violent and inhumane. And another horrifying reminder of what the queer community in Kenya goes through because they live in a country that does not recognize their humanity. 

Edwin was a fashion designer and model. I scrolled through his Instagram posts yesterday and the talent that he was is loudly evident.

He turned boring suits into a work of art and spectacular colours. Even though I did not know him, I can tell from his social media posts that he was a person who embodied passion in a way most of us can't. He was a gift.
He was also an LGBTQ activist. He experienced violence for being who he was and he understood the need to fight for a better and more humane society. 

It is extremely difficult to come to terms with his death and the fact that he died before he was able to live in the free society he had wanted for everyone who is marginalized.

In July 2022, Edwin Chiloba posted horrific photos which were later deleted from his Instagram. He had been attacked and assaulted because of who he was and for his work which was not limited by gender constraints.
The violence he faced while he was here and when he ultimately met his violent death is so brutal to address. How do you talk about it on social media when it is a space full of bigots who are still willing to dehumanize him even in his death? How do you talk about it to people who have been taught to believe that people like him deserve to die for simply existing?

When the Kenyan President was interviewed by CNN, as it is their ritual after a presidential win, he was asked about the homophobia in this country. Just like his predecessor, he said that it was a non-issue.
How is it a non-issue when queer people continue to face targeted violence in this country? How is it a subject not worthy of discussion when queer people are continuously murdered year in and year out in this country?  

When one of the most popular boy band members in Kenya came out as queer, Kenyans on the internet unleashed all the violence they could on him and towards his friends and bandmates. Until today, months after he came out, he continues to endure unwavering online violence at shocking levels.

There are structures in our society that have the responsibility to call out violence but they remain silent in the face of it while continuously segregating the queer community and enabling the violence that is directed at them. These structures are led by religious institutions that are supposed to embody love but teach intolerance that manifests in other people's lives as violence, bullying, and death.

I would love to talk about the homophobia in this country but where do you begin when it is sanctioned by the government, culture, and religion? 

Where do you begin when the country that is supposed to protect you throws you to the wolves?

Where do you begin to talk about it when a majority of people you want to talk to are so devoid of empathy? 

It is helpless and hurtful. It is heartbreakingly painful and yet we will wake up today and the next day still being as violent as ever to people who are as deserving of humanity as the rest of the homophobic world which feels they are the only ones entitled to live lives free of violence.

May Edwin rest in peace and may his killers never know it.