Edwin Chiloba, a 25-year-old Kenyan fashion designer and model was found dead Tuesday, January 3, by the roadside near his hometown, Eldoret in Uasin Gishu County. The Kenyan fashion icon and LGBTQ rights activist had moved to Nairobi to study fashion.
Multiple suspects have been arrested in connection to Chiloba’s murder. According to a police affidavit made public by the court in Eldoret, Chiloba died in his home, which he shared with one of the suspects, Jacktone Odhiambo. Medical examiners discovered Chiloba died of asphyxiation caused by smothering.
Odhiambo and the other four suspects are suspected to have aided the moving of the metallic box containing Chiloba’s remains from a car spotted on scene. Police said they will detain the five suspects for a further 21 days as of Jan. 11, according to NTV Kenya.
Chiloba was buried and honored by family and friends earlier this week, according to BBC.
The mourning of Chiloba is a window into an ongoing fight for global LGBTQ equality.
An LGBTQ refugee, referred to as PK for safety, spoke to GLAAD on behalf of human rights violations against LGBTQ refugees of Kenya. She speaks on the many inadequate actions taken by global leaders to ensure the safety of LGBTQ people, and grieves for Chiloba.
“[He] used to console us,” PK said about Chiloba.
“It was very hard to believe. I knew [him] personally. Losing an activist is very hard and very tragic,” she said.
Chiloba, said PK, often advocated for refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, founded in 1992. PK is also an advocate, and faces the same dangers that took Chiloba’s life.
“A day in Camp Kakuma is a bad day,” said PK.
Prior to becoming a refugee, PK had a job working for humanitarian crises in Uganda. She is now a transgender refugee focused on fighting for better conditions for herself and other LGBTQ refugees facing life threatening persecution in Camp Kakuma.
She’s not alone.
Other LGBTQ advocates continue to speak out in light of Chiloba’s death.
“It is time for our society to come together and stand up for the rights and safety of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Kenya Amnesty International said in a statement.
Additionally, Kenyan organizations are holding government and law enforcement accountable for seeking justice for all people murdered regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The African Commission expresses in the strongest terms possible its condemnation of the brutal murder of Edwin Chiloba and affirms following its Resolution 275 that everyone is entitled to the protection of their lives and the integrity of their persons irrespective of their real or perceived sexual or gender identity, and by the mere fact of their being human,” The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights released in a statement.
Nearly 70 countries criminalize consensual LGBTQ adult relationships.
Each year this list decreases.
In 2022, Singapore and Barbados have decriminalized their colonial-era anti-LGBTQ penal codes, and same-sex marriage was legalized in Slovenia.
This week, at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, GLAAD advocated for LGBTQ decriminalization on a global and corporate scale, urging international corporations to speak up for LGBTQ human rights. WEF is an international organization for public-private corporations, which “strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest, while upholding the highest standards of governance,” according to their website.
Corporate allies including Accenture, AWS, Axios, Circle.com, Cisco, CNBC, Deloitte, EY, Female Quotient, Google, Hub Culture, IBM, Meta, Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, Workday, and Zoom participated in what’s called ‘Pride on the Promenade’ where they stood in solidarity with LGBTQ global equality by lighting their Davos stores in rainbow lights resembling the pride flag.
GLAAD’s President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis called on corporate partners to connect the word of allyship to more action.
“LGBTQ people know that visibility matters. Our visibility has led to legal equality and social acceptance. The world leaders and business leaders here in Davos tonight see that the world’s largest and most influential companies here are proud allies. Let that send a message to the countries and companies who are not posting rainbows tonight. But tonight’s rainbows must continue with action year-round. While the rainbows come down on the Promenade, the action from corporates cannot,” Ellis said.
For refugees like PK, LGBTQ decriminalization is a far-fetched idea, but is something she knows would lead to massive change. She calls for immediate action from global powers, leaders and politicians to speak up for LGBTQ people’s humanity as they help deliver necessary basics like food, water, medicine.
“The hopes I have… I would love the respectable agencies to get us a safe place to accept us as LGBTQ,” said PK. “A place where we can at least be a community.”
To send aid to refugees in Camp Kakuma go here.