• Male survivor of sodomy speaks out on a crime others suffer in silence over shame
• Meanwhile, women recount unsolicited advances by lesbians in clubs and colleges
In 2015, Julius Irungu was a hardworking hawker, selling second-hand beddings, until tragedy knocked on his door.
Business was booming and Irungu, then 23, had just arrived in Murang’a town from Gikomba market, the largest second-hand market in the country, to restock.
But he arrived around 10pm and boarded the last matatu to his village, Gathinja, on the Murang’a-Kangema road.
As he waited for a boda boda to take him and his luggage home, he was accosted by a gang of four men, who appeared to him as police officers.
It was during the countrywide crackdown on second-generation alcohol and counterfeit liquor, so he assumed the four were security officers on an operation.
The four took hold of him and led him down a narrow path, where they eventually found a Toyota Fielder parked near a stream.
They demanded for money and threatened to kill him if he did not give it to them.
Irungu had Sh500 in his pocket and another Sh500 he had hidden in his socks. He gave them the money but it was not enough.
They opened the boot of the car and he was shocked to see a woman lying in it, bloody and naked from the waist down.
In a daze, Irungu obediently got into the boot beside the woman and the car sped off in a direction he could not tell.
The car stopped at a dark spot that had trees and the assailants.
commanded him to get out of the boot, leading him into a farm.
They were debating what to do with him and at some point, they started talking about assaulting him sexually.
“One of them said he wanted to go first and pointed at another one who he said went first in another instance.
Another one suggested they just keep me and demand for ransom from my family.” Irungu told the Star.
Eventually, they got a rope from the car and tied him to a tree with his hands bound behind his head.
One of the assailants injected him with a substance in his arm and back, numbing him, while another proceeded to sodomise him.
But when he was done, another found that he had already started bleeding and reprimanded his counterpart for it, saying he would not be able to have his fun.
He got a carrot from the car and inserted it into Irungu’s anus, while a third came with a knife and inserted it beside the carrot.
“I was already numb to an extent and only felt a sharp pain, as if something very sharp had pricked me, but I could feel blood running all over my body,” he said.
After putting him through the ordeal, the men took off in the car and left him unconscious, still tied to a tree.
Many sexual assault victims, especially men, get too traumatised and sometimes refrain from seeking treatment. They end up acquiring STDs and take a long time to heal, both physically and mentally.
He was later found by a group of elderly men, who saw spots of blood and followed them up to where he was.
Irungu woke up four days later at Muriranjas Hospital and was shocked when doctors showed him the items they had removed from his body.
He was then referred to Murang’a General Hospital before well-wishers facilitated him to undertake treatment at Nairobi Women’s Hospital, where underwent corrective surgery.
The incident left him severely disturbed, especially after doctors told him the knife had interfered with his reproductive system and that he would no longer sire children.
He had to put on diapers for months and would sleep on the floor as it was too painful to climb onto the bed. He also could not sit.
“I thank God my wife supported me through it all because it would have been very hard had she left,” he said, adding that he was traumatised to an extent he could not walk past a group of men or be outside after dusk.
Slowly but surely, intensive therapy at Murang’a General Hospital helped him heal psychologically. And contrary to expectations, he was able to sire a son with his wife and is now a father of two.
Police were unable to find the culprits and the incident left his village in utter shock. Such an incident was unheard of.
Irungu plans to start a support group for victims of sexual violence as many who hear his story reach out to him for support.
He is currently helping a man in his mid-thirties who is on bed rest after he was sodomised by a gang of men in Kiambu county.
Due to shame, the man did not go to a hospital. He has been unable to leave his house for more than two months and is currently fully dependent on his wife.
“If I had the resources, I would bring these people together to help them accept their situation and move on.
And also encourage more not to be silent because if you stay mum, you don’t heal. I am only here because I spoke out and people came out to help me." Irungu said.
For decades, Murang’a has been a sleepy town with a barely surviving nightlife and low cash flow.
The town, which largely depends on agriculture for its economy, prides itself in being a Christian town with many churches.
But in the recent past, homosexuality has picked up and youths of the same gender can be seen fraternising intimately in social set-ups.
*Ann* (not her real name) said she was shocked one day to see two girls fighting each other over her in a nightclub.
She had gone to the club with male friends, who invited two girls who were sitting at an adjacent table over to their table.
One of the girls sat next to her and engaged her in a conversation, much to the dismay of her mate, who caused drama as the two engaged in a physical fight. The two were in a relationship.
“I politely made it clear to them that I was not homosexual and asked them not to fight over me,” she said, adding that the issue has become rampant.
She said many young women, most of them single mothers who have been perennially disappointed in heterosexual relationships, tend to become lesbians.
Another resident, Jackson Maina, said he has interacted with many lesbians, who give harrowing stories of their experiences with men.
Some, he said, have been sexually abused, while others went through other forms of gender-based violence and were unable to heal from it.
Eventually, he said, they decide not to deal with men altogether and prefer women, who are softer and more affectionate.
He also has male friends who have been hit on by men, especially on social media.
He said it is not uncommon to find men flattering a man, especially after posting a photo on social media forums, such as WhatsApp.
“They call you pet names that a straight man only expects from a woman. Others will straight-up invite you to their houses for coffee. Some are even men of the cloth. This has become very common.”
Njeri, a lesbian, was inducted into lesbianism when she joined a college in Nairobi in 2018.
Fresh from high school, Njeri did not have a boyfriend and was shocked to find a group of people practising same-sex relationships.
When girls started approaching her, she was confused and did not know what to do or who to turn to.
By the second month, things got worse as one of the suitors, a tomboy whom she describes as predominantly masculine with a hint of femininity, became more aggressive.
“She looked and dressed like a man. The way she talked and carried herself was masculine in every way,” Njeri said.
She said most girls pursuing such relationships with new college entrants are mostly from well-off families, and they target girls from poor backgrounds, luring them with gifts.
She looked and dressed like a man. The way she talked and carried herself was masculine in every wayNjeri
They have groups and the suitor would send a group member with gifts that Njeri would turn away because she had been told that some people used gifts to lure others into devil worship.
In one instance, the suitor confronted Njeri, seeking to know why her gifts were being rejected, only to leave her an envelope with Sh5,000 in it.
In a bid to discourage her, Njeri made a deal with a neighbour, a man, to pretend to be her boyfriend, but the fake boyfriend was paid off to stay away from her.
The most common challenge we face is stigmatisation. We feel rejected by the society. The community treats you as a sinnerJane
“She came and asked me why I wanted to have a hard time in college yet I had someone willing to help. I was warned by classmates that I had to be careful with her as she could even harm me.”
She tried reaching out to her parents to relocate her to another institution, even hinting to her mother that there were lesbianism issues in her college, but the mother cautioned her to keep off them and accused her of intending to drop out when she insisted.
Frustrated, she gave in to the suitor’s demands and thus began her life as a lesbian. Her girlfriend would fetch her with high-end cars from her hostel to her home. The suitor’s parents had rented a house for her.
Since then, Njeri has only dated girls and is not interested in men.
Jane, another lesbian, said she inducted herself into the world of homosexuality through the Internet. She met a girl on Facebook who was seemingly also a lesbian as she replied promptly when she reached out to her.
The two agreed to meet in Murang’a though the girlfriend was from Nairobi, and their relationship took off.
Jane was never attracted to the opposite sex even as a child. When men hit on her, she politely let them down.
In school, Jane realised she was different as she felt more comfortable in the company of girls. She was indifferent to boys’ flattery and got excited when girls said nice things about her.
She is the initiator in most of her relationships and explains that she approaches women the same way men approach women.
Some women who play the masculine role in a lesbian relationship, she said, sometimes take hormonal drugs that push their menstruation away as they find it annoying, without much care as to how they affect their health.
Her biggest worry was how her parents would react when they found out about her sexuality. Despite acting angry, they accepted her and let her be.
Should her partner want to have a child in future, Jane said they will explore artificial insemination or even adoption.
“Surely what is so wrong about me loving a woman? As long as I am not hurting anybody. Some say we are ungodly but I believe in God and I go to church every Sunday.”
As straight couples celebrate love on Valentine’s Day, Jane revealed that lesbians and gay couples congregate in June to celebrate theirs.
June is globally labelled as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) pride month and is used to champion their rights.
She said though lesbianism is illegal in the country, she is happy that they are not persecuted as is seen in other countries, where they are tortured and even killed.
This story was produced by the Star Publications in partnership with WAN-IFRA Women in News Social Impact Reporting Initiative