Queer Kenyans and Nigerians Also Plagued by Dating App Criminals


Dating app criminals weaponise the stigma and criminalisation faced by queer commmunites in Africa

The targeting of LGBTQ+ people by criminals on dating apps and social media platforms is well known in South Africa, but it’s a phenomenon that’s also a reality in other African countries like Kenya and Nigeria. However, there are some significant differences. 

South Africa has been beset by an ongoing epidemic of violent and sometimes deadly abductions and robberies targeting members of the LGBTQ+ community on dating apps and sites for several years.

Unsuspecting individuals are lured to meet someone at a dwelling, only to be pounced upon by several men. They are typically held captive, subjected to violence, torture and threats and forced to reveal their banking passwords. The criminals empty their bank accounts using the victim’s banking apps, or hold them ransom until family or friends make payments for their release.

Despite some arrests, incidents continue to be reported, with many victims describing an often disinterested and incompetent police response to their cases.

The Added Impact of Criminalisation

In Kenya, LGBTQ+ groups are backing several landmark court cases concerning incidents of queer people being violently attacked and blackmailed after being lured to meet criminals through apps like Grindr and Facebook.

In Nigeria, the phenomenon has become so widespread over the past decade that it has its own name, “kito”. The Initiative for Equal Rights reported that almost 70% of 996 documented human rights violations against people who are or were perceived to be LGBTQ+ in the past year were kito-related cases.

What makes these crimes more complex in these countries is that homosexuality is not only stigmatised but also illegal, with those found guilty of same-sex intimacy facing up to life in prison in Nigeria.

Being pushed into the shadows by unjust and inhuman laws, many queer people have no option but to use dating apps to meet others like them.

This is all weaponised against the victims who not only face being robbed and assaulted but also risk being outed, which could see them disowned by family members, victimised by their community, losing their jobs and being arrested if they go to the police.

The criminals are well aware that this increases the likelihood that they won’t be reported or face any consequences for their actions. In numerous cases, the police themselves target legally vulnerable LGBTQ+ people, blackmailing them with the threat of arrest and prosecution.

And while many victims in South Africa may genuinely also fear being outed, which could have very real consequences, they are protected by the law (at least on paper).

According to a Grindr representative who visited the country in February, however, dating app criminals in South Africa tend to be more brutal and violent, with at least three cases thought to have led to the death of the victims.

One victim, 43-year-old Kuben Kevin Archary, was strangled to death in a Durban guest house in July 2023.

Queer Community Takes on Dating App Criminals

In Kenya, there’s hope that victories in some of the cases against dating app criminals will send a signal to the country’s LGBTQ+ community that they could find justice through the criminal justice system.

“A positive verdict in any of these cases would be a big win. It will say to (the LGBTQ+ community), ‘look, the courts are here to serve you too,'” Kennedy Murunga, a pro bono lawyer working with the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Ishtar-MSM on seven cases, told Reuters.

The LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria has now taken steps to try to protect themselves by sharing the names, photos, and profiles of criminals on several online platforms. The Kito Diaries website, for example, provides regular news and alerts about incidents.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that the use of these platforms motivated three fed-up members of the community to set up a sting operation to trap an alleged perpetrator. Their success led to the arrest of at least eight suspected kito criminals in Lagos.

With police seeming to make little headway in South Africa, it may be time for our queer community to learn from our siblings elsewhere on the continent; taking matters into our own hands by actively sharing information within the community and becoming more proactive in protecting one another.

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