In a country where gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and where attacks on the LGBT community occur frequently, a solitary rainbow flag flapping in the wind just a stone’s throw from the president’s official residence in Nairobi serves as a small but symbolic mark of rebellion.
Inside the building flying the flag, one of Kenya’s leading LGBT rights organizations, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), is working on a case currently filed in the country’s high court that could remove criminal punishment for adults who engage in homosexual activity altogether.
It is the first time that anyone has directly challenged the ban, with lawyer and NGLHRC leader Eric Gitari saying he closed the office after filing the case over fears of a backlash from members of the public but returned ten days later to find no threats or violence had taken place.
“We wanted to monitor the public reaction, and not put our staff at risk, but the reaction has not been as expected. We thought there would be backlash but there has been none,” he said.
The news barely made headlines in local media, and the social media reaction has been negligible. Next month, proceedings in the High Court will begin, though the appeals process means it could take up to five years for an outcome.
Kenya is one of 34 African nations where homosexual activity is illegal, with some countries punishing it with life imprisonment or even death. But Gitari hopes his country could soon follow in the footsteps of Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe, which have decriminalized homosexuality in recent years.
* Homosexuality is illegal in socially conservative Kenya
* Comments likely to irk Kenya’s liberal Western donors
* US Secretary of State Kerry visiting Nairobi
NAIROBI, on May 4, Kenya’s deputy president has said there is “no room” for homosexuality in Kenyan society, the latest comments from an African government to anger activists and likely also to annoy Western donors who say gays are targetted on the continent.
William Ruto made the remarks at a church service on Sunday, the day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for talks.
The United States has been at the forefront of calls for gay rights in Africa and criticizes anti-gay laws on the continent.
“The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God. We have no room for gays and those others,” Ruto told a Nairobi church congregation in the national Swahili language, according to an online video posted by Kenyan broadcaster KTN.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Ruto’s spokesman Emmanuel Talam confirmed the deputy president’s remarks, adding: “The government believes that homosexual relations are unnatural and unAfrican.”
According to the Kenyan government, 595 cases were prosecuted under Section 162 between 2010 and 2014, though Gitari and his team found that most of them were cases of bestiality and rape — crimes currently seen as comparable to consensual gay sex in the eyes of the law.
Like most of sub-Saharan Africa, Kenyan society is strongly religious and socially conservative. Anti-gay remarks by African leaders often win public support but puts them at odds with Western donors who provide vital economic and other support.
When neighboring Uganda passed a law last year that toughened prison sentences against gays, Kerry described it as “atrocious” and compared it to anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany. The law was later struck down by a court.
The United States is a valuable donor to Kenya, providing annual aid of almost $1 billion, some of it to help the security forces but much of it to support treatment of HIV/AIDS victims.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and has been so since colonial British rule, which ended in 1963.
Kenyan activists condemned Ruto’s remarks on social media.
“Kenya’s deputy president joins an important tradition by Africans in power to spread hate in church on a Sunday,” Binyavanga Wainana, a prominent Kenyan writer who is openly gay, said on his Twitter account.
Last week, Kenya’s High Court ruled that a prominent gay rights group could register as a non-governmental organization after a board overseeing such applications refused its request.
Activists praised the ruling but the attorney general has appealed against it.
Ruto, who took office in 2013, is being tried on charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for his alleged role in stoking ethnic violence after Kenya’s 2007 presidential election. He denies the accusations.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had faced similar charges, but they were withdrawn last year.
It is a strange thing about Kenya’s so-called Christians who claim homosexuals are abominations and upchuck bible quotations at the drop of the collection plate just how quickly they will change their small minds when US financial support (over 1 billion USD ) per year is terminated.
Humans often hate anything that is different from themselves. If it is different it is evil and evil must be destroyed. They condemn the nonconventional.
They also often ostracize those individuals that practice and live an alternative lifestyle they themselves wish to discover but are held back due to religious teachings and the possibility of eternal damnation.
Kenya is a place where it is believed that children with fertile imaginations, if not supervised or disciplined, will create a make-believe friend and that friend will corrupt the child with homosexual behavior or even acceptance of homosexuals.
While in western cultures a make-believe friend is a constant source of comfort and companionship. My make-believe friend was a french goose.
In reality, Adults that once had a make-believe friend are more likely to became religious.
It is a mere step from a childhood make-believe friend to worshiping an imaginary deity. Both are invisible. It can be a cause for concern especially when the message of the imaginary friend or deity is based on hate and fear and a book that was written by worshipers of the imaginary deity to establish power and control.
As long as we have humans we will have crimes against humanity.
It is only through love, tolerance, and acceptance can we grow.