Some of you may remember the case of Brenda (aka Stella), the 17 year old trans woman who was working as a house help in Kisumu. In mid-2012, Brenda was arrested and charged with “defamation of character” after her employer discovered that she is transgender. Thankfully, that case was dismissed. But did you know that several months after her former employers charged Brenda with defamation of character, they had her arrested a second time, accusing her of stealing three mobile phones from their home?
Though we can’t prove or disprove Brenda’s innocence, the fact that this case came up several months after she stopped working for the family implies that they’re going after her for personal reasons. Given the lack of understanding of transgender people in Kenyan society, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a young woman like Brenda being punished for her gender identity by people who don’t understand her, and may even fear her in their ignorance.
Brenda has been held in Kodiaga Prison in Kisumu for the past several months as she awaits trail. Though she is being treated relatively well by prison staff, she is being held in isolation in the men’s section of the prison. This is not only incredibly demoralizing and disrespectful of her gender, but has also had a negative impact on her mental health. Isolation and being placed in the wrong section for her gender can contribute to depression, anxiety and anger. Consider the fact that inmates are usually isolated in prison as a form of punishment for bad behaviour; Brenda has been living in isolation with no trial for months, simply because of who she is.
We as people concerned with social justice must step up to help. Members of VOWWEK have been visiting Brenda since they found out about her incarceration last month, letting her know that she is not alone. Up until this point, Brenda has had a court-appointed lawyer, which means that the lawyer has no stake in pushing for her court dates or for her rights. We have managed to secure her with a lawyer, which will help move the process along more quickly. But we still need your help in providing bail (which has been set at 8,000Ksh), and supporting Brenda with funds for necessities and housing as her case proceeds. You can also help simply by spreading the word about her situation.
Any questions and contributions can be sent to Georgina Adhiambo at 0736970904, or to Guillit Amakobe at 0724155631. If you are outside of Kenya and would like to contribute, contact us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work something out.
Thank you for your assistance and for your well-wishes.
Voices of Women in Western Kenya (VOWWEK) and Jinsiangu