Thank you for raising your concerns about safety at the upcoming State of the Map (SotM) event in Nairobi, Kenya. As the Local Organizing Committee, we value your input and are dedicated to ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for all attendees.
We understand the challenges and complexities faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in certain regions, like Kenya, and this has been an issue we’ve been discussing, investigating, and actively working on. People should always be looking out for the safety of themselves and their community. We’ve been in touch with LGBTQ+ advocates in Kenya to get their perspectives, and are going to continue to engage to get their help as we prepare State of the Map.
While Kenya’s legal and societal landscape presents challenges, our commitment to a harassment-free environment remains steadfast. Despite perceptions to the contrary, the situation in Kenya has improved over the last several years. Yes, there are antiquated laws on the books, but in practice, these are not enforced. Yes, politicians do sometimes use gay rights as a wedge issue, but strictly speaking, LGBTQ people should not face harassment or discrimination. Meanwhile, the safety situation in other countries in the region has deteriorated, and Kenya can get caught in that harsh spotlight. In Kenya, gay people have been given more space in the local media to explain and present themselves.
That is particularly true in cosmopolitan Nairobi, which is a more tolerant environment than rural parts of Kenya and attracts multinational organizations for their regional and continental presence. That said, you have to pay attention to the nuances. You can be yourself, but shouting about yourself or displaying affection (i.e. kissing)on the street – you have to understand the cultural context.
Foreigners, in particular, are given more latitude in Kenya. They are shown respect – though also at times seen as an “opportunity”, but that is not to do sexual orientation or gender identity. Traveling to Kenya, you have to be smart about where you go and how you conduct yourself, but overall it is an easy place to travel to.
We are hard at work, and will transparently communicate safety guidelines, support resources, and recommendations to empower all attendees to make informed decisions about their participation. At the conference itself, we expect everyone to show respect, grace, and inclusion to all.
For any further questions or suggestions, please feel free to reach out. Your contributions are integral to creating a positive and inclusive hybrid SotM 2024 event.
On behalf of the SotM 2024 Local Organizing Committee