Phone with the Grindr homescreen

Dating in Nairobi: no longer safe for gay men

Kenyan gay men need to be less horny and more cautious when it comes to internet dating. The risks involved are much worse than a broken heart.

Gay dating apps have been the riskiest form of meeting someone for a while now. Users have been kidnapped, beaten, and even extorted money from. And there’s no end in sight. Some of these cases involve sexual assault, and sadly, even rape.

Dating apps: meeting partners more easily

Gay dating apps such as Grindr, Hornet, and Manjam have been hailed as success stories – gay men could easily seek partners, meet, and even engage in sexual activity with others. Gone are the days when gay men would scout bars or corners on the streets (or bushes) to engage in romance, foreplay, or actual sex. It was a welcome change – so welcome, that Tinder and others were developed to cater for heterosexual people.

Exploitation and assaults

But then, the first cases of app-blackmail were reported in Nairobi. A victim would meet someone online and then have the person see them at their house. Unfortunately, this often escalated into people forcing themselves into homes, demanding money, and even assaulting the victims.

Between 2011 and 2015, more and more victims came out to share their stories. Most had never talked about this, out of fear and shame. The stories were harrowing – beatings, being forced to be naked and photographed, or used condoms being placed on the victims as the captors took photos. Also threats, and in some cases, rape by one or several of the captors.

Assaulted while committing a crime?

Concerned activists were forced to remain silent. How do you report a crime when it is essentially done while another crime is being committed? How do you go to a police station to report that someone has been assaulted, or raped, in another man’s house, who he met online, ostensibly for sex?

Many victims were afraid of making police statements, as most weren’t known to be gay and didn’t want the cases to go forward out of fear of being outed.
We were in a fix.

Of course, creatively, we generated information, mapped out areas, and showed the various ways in which to confirm the identity of someone you met. 

More gay men started to become cautious over who they met. Others demanded more information from people they hooked up with online. Others preferred to have dates in public spaces.

Good, but not good enough.

The number of cases went down significantly. I know this because I singlehandedly led efforts to unmask and expose the scam that involved, in some cases, even corrupt police officers who were used to intimidate the victims in case they did not pay up.

So extraordinary were these efforts that Grindr now has an occasional pop-up window on how to be safe while using the App – something that they piloted only in Kenya.

One or two cases still reached my desk: online hook-up, meeting in strangers’ houses, and then other people entering to find you in the middle of having sex. And then the assault starts.

Most of the victims, even with the information available out there, fell into this trap which can be blamed on the need for sexual intimacy and physical expression with another individual. As they say, the thirst is real.

Criminalisation of homosexuality puts people at risk

Priests, lawyers, doctors, husbands, students, touts, tourists, and in one case, a prominent politician have all fallen victim to this extortion because same-sex relations are punishable by law.

It has been argued, that the blackmailers are driven by poverty or are just criminals out to make a quick buck. Only partly true. Various other factors can be attributed to this – including criminalisation of homosexuality, the emergence of new, easy to install technology that makes it easier to share information online, amongst others.

Gay men in Kenya live in a criminalised society. It gets worse when innovative ways to circumvent our need for, and the pursuit of happiness, relationship, or just a lay, have become the very way that puts us at risk.

Nairobi is not safe for gay men. It never has been. My advice to all gay men out there – it’s better to be less horny, and more cautious.

Denis Nzioka is a gay rights activist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Recent Comments (29)

  1. Good info. Lucky me I ran…
    Good info. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance (stumbleupon).

    I’ve book marked it for later!

    1. You are welcome Orlando, we…

      You are welcome Orlando, we are glad.

    2. How can i get gay in Kenya
      How can i get gay in Kenya

      1. Hello gg, Love Matters…

        Hello gg, Love Matters Africa is not a dating site and we cannot help you in this regard.

        1. If it is possible we should…
          If it is possible we should share phone numbers among ourselves

          1. Hello Peter, we would…

            Hello Peter, we would suggest you do not do it on this site as we have repeatedly said this is not a dating site

        1. Hello Adrian, thank you for…

          Hello Adrian, thank you for getting in touch, check out the article to learn more about the risks of using same sex dating apps in Kenya. Have a wonderful weekend ahead and stay safe !

        1. Hi Martin, how are you today…

          Hi Martin, how are you today? Welcome to Love Matters Africa.

    1. You are welcome to Love…

      You are welcome to Love Matters Africa Albert. We hope that you find the information here useful. Feel free to ask any questions on Love, Sex and Relationships and we shall be more than glad to respond to you. 

        1. We hope you are keeping safe…

          We hope you are keeping safe Sam. 

        1. Hey Cosmas, What do you need?

          Hey Cosmas, What do you need?

  2. does grindr works in Kenya…
    does grindr works in Kenya nowadays?

  3. Its true thank God I’ve…
    Its true thank God I’ve never been in such a mess tho its true blackmail happens I do here many complain

    1. Hi Ian, you are indeed lucky…

      Hi Ian, you are indeed lucky! However, remember to try and keep safe so that you keep steering clear of blackmail.

  4. Love is natural pleasure…
    Love is natural pleasure shouldn’t be totally tormented

    1. Hello brayan max, thank you…

      Hello brayan max, thank you for sharing your opinion with us and to add to what you are saying, love should never be something that brings about torment to anyone involved. Love is an intense feeling of deep affection towards another person.  Love is warm, it is kind and patient. Love is forgiving. Love is a feeling of a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone. 

      Check this article for more information on what love is;-

      Have a wonderful week ahead and stay safe. 

  5. i have a partner who normal…
    i have a partner who normal touches my penis everynight is he a gay

    1. Hi Victor, what is the…

      Hi Victor, what is the situation in which he is touching your penis?

  6. I just don’t get why its bad…
    I just don’t get why its bad for someone to express their feelings…i mean what if the feelings are excess

    1. Hi Mariana, thank you for…

      Hi Mariana, thank you for this question. There is no issue expressing one’s feelings, the issue is how that expression of feelings is interpreted. In communities where LGBTQ issues are still considered taboo, it is generally not safe for this community.

    1. Hi TT, what is not enough?

      Hi TT, what is not enough?

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