Canada Accused Over Visa Denial to Kenyan Lesbian Activist

The Canadian government has twice denied a visa to an established Kenyan lesbian activist, despite a detailed appeal from her sponsoring organization.

Kate Kamunde was invited to join a rights training session organized by the Women’s Human Rights Education Institutes (WHRI) in Toronto. She is a poet and founded Artists For Recognition and Acceptance (AFRA-Kenya) in November 2008.

I understand that denials of visas to activists from the ‘global south’ invited to conferences, to give speeches or attend training sessions like the one in Canada are becoming increasingly common as Western governments ‘tighten’ visa regimes.

Denials of visas to artists giving concerts or having exhibitions has become a serious problem in the UK and the US.

In August, the British government denied a visa to Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesra, a leading lesbian activist in Uganda and the 2011 winner of the prestigious Martin Ennals award for Human Rights.

She had been invited to open Foyle Pride in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Nabagesra has attended numerous speaking engagements around the world. The British visa was denied on the basis that it was claimed that she had not provided “evidence of financial ties to their home country which would indicate that they intend to return home at the end of their proposed visit.” That is, they thought she may become an asylum seeker.

The decision was reversed after intervention behind the scenes.

In 2009 Ugandan activist Victor Mukasa was named International Grand Marshall for Toronto Pride and invited with three other Ugandan LGBTI activists. Despite sponsor appeals and having all the necessary documentation and travel support, only one of them secured a visa.

Naome Ruzindana of Horizon Community Association in Rwanda has just been denied a visa by Belgium — despite having previously visited that country numerous times. She had been asked for the first time for a personal bank statement. She wrote:

“Am so worried that I still have to explain my status even to the [embassy] people I think knows me well. Am so confused that we can still solicit for this to our so called partners in our respective countries.”

Similarly to Nabagesra, Kamunde’s visa was denied in part because the Visa Section of the Canada High Commission in Nairobi questioned “whether the applicant would be likely to leave Canada at the end of his/her authorised stay.”

Angela Lytle, the WHRI Executive Director said:

“This being Kate’s second attempt, with our support, to procure a visa to Canada for these purposes, we felt certain that the many institutions supporting her attendance should have enabled her to secure a visa. Kate had full funding from a European funding organization and she had the support of the Kenyan National Human Rights Commission in her home country, as well as our invitation for her to participate in this program.”

“We cannot fathom why her visa was denied on the standard grounds that the Canadian High Commission asserts for visa denials without ever clarifying or elaborating upon how those decisions are made.”

“Kate is the first Kenyan national we have worked with who has been refused her visa twice, and so we are led to wonder deeply about the grounds upon which they made their decision.”

“WHRI have been offering globally renowned training institutes in women’s human rights at the University of Toronto for eight years, with dozens of participants who have come to Toronto from around the world to participate and then subsequently returning to their home communities to share their learning within their home organizations, institutions and communities.”

Wanja Muguongo, Executive Director of the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative (UHAI-EASHRI), told Behind The Mask:

“Foreign missions need to realise that if indeed their governments are true partners in the struggle for human rights then they need to walk the talk.”

“This process seems unduly prejudiced towards sexual minorities or towards the thought that being a minority makes an applicant more risky and this should never be a factor in their appraisals as it is discriminatory in nature.”

“The missions need to come out clearly on what else they require to allow activists to travel.”

In August in relation to Nabagesra’s visa denial, I asked the British Home Office (who lead on foreign policy implications of visa decisions according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office):

Is the Home Office concerned on how the denial of this visa will be perceived internationally as undermining the government’s expressed support for LGBT rights in countries such as Uganda? Support which was underlined by the Prime Minister in June?

Given that she has traveled to numerous countries and returned to Uganda to continue her work there, why would the UK believe that she would abandon this and remain in the UK as opposed to any of these other countries?

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said:

“The UK’s reputation for supporting those seeking protection on the grounds of sexual orientation is not in doubt … However, the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the immigration rules.”

Video of Kate by Freedom In Speech, the Kenyan LGBT website for which she is a contributor:

Photo credit: Kate Kamunde


Jeanne M.
Jeanne M6 years ago

We have a new Conservative government and Harper has a majority this time around.
I am truly sorry, folks, because I think it's going to get worse than this.
In one of his recent speeches, he talked of his government addressing 'Canada's moral ambiguities'.
The Alliance Church, to which Harper has belonged for decades, believes Jesus Christ will return to Earth in an apocalypse, won't ordain women, strongly opposes abortion and divorce, condemns homosexuality as the most base of sins and believes those who aren't born-again are 'lost.'
He also has a number of religious whackos in his caucus.
This does not bode well.

Gloria W.
Gloria W.6 years ago

I wonder why???

kenny s.
Kenny Stidham6 years ago

I dont understand this when in many places in Canada Homosexual marriages are on the same legal level as hetrosexual marriages. What gives Canada?

Dave D.
Dave D6 years ago

It's a clear ploy to censor the message by censoring–denying entry–to the messenger.

Helle H.
Helle H6 years ago

How would the embassy know about their sexuallity? I've never been asked anything about mine when applying for a visa.

Marjaana V.
marjaana v6 years ago

ok, this is getting totally tedious, wtf is is going on with king harper's government?

it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, so either there is more to this than we've been told or we're heading for a world of hurting for supporting a government with an agenda totally alien to canadians.

and steve.... on second thought, why even bother...

Ian F.
Ian Fletcher6 years ago

Live and let live my friends, let this woman (all women) go wherever she wants to go.
It's time humanity give women a break (The Da Vinci Code).

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Thanks Paul.

Marg Wood
Marg W6 years ago

That should be mean spirited!

Ruby W.
Ruby W6 years ago

these are not people civilized countries should be keeping out - they are the people we need to learn from