Kenya’s anti-gay laws hurting the LGBT community

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In Kenya, Lesbians, Gays, Transgender, and Bisexuals are often stigmatized, discriminated and subjected to attacks because of their sexual orientations.

Out of the 54 countries in Africa, Kenya is among the 37 countries that have criminalized homosexual acts. According to Pew Global Attitudes Project (2007), 97% of Kenyans believe that homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept. Highly ranked political leaders like the president and deputy president and the religious leaders have publicly denounced homosexual acts and have made it clear that the LGBT community has no room and place in this country. This has contributed to widespread hate, discriminations, and attacks against the LGBT community in the country.

Religious leaders together with political leaders have organized many protests and attacks against the LGBT community in the country which have resulted in some LGBT individuals beaten, injured and some have fled their homes to unknown destinations because of fear. What is heartbreaking is that the Police have failed to investigate any of these cases despite their slogans saying “Utumishi kwa Wote” (Service to all).

In Kenya, when two consenting partners are found to be having same sex relations, they can face up to 14 years in prison. They can also be jailed for seven years maximum for just attempting to have such sexual relations. Such regulations have caused stigma leading to incidents of marginalization and discrimination in almost all sectors (education, health, work).

When Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta the President of the Republic of Kenya was at the United Nations general assembly last year, he emphasized on Kenya’s commitments in achieving all sustainable development goals, and in particular the eradication of gender-based violence. I find it inconsistent for him to acknowledge at the UN that “we cannot reach our development goals without addressing human rights and complex humanitarian issues” and at the same time when President Obama visited the country, he dismissed LGBT rights as a non-issue.

Criminalization of LGBT justifies treating them differently which makes equality before the law unattainable. Article 27 of the Constitution of Kenya provides that:

  1. Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law.
  2. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms.
  3. Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres. The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.
  4. A person shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against another person on any of the grounds specified or contemplated in clause.

We must condemn laws that deny people to be treated with respect and dignity. We must say no to laws that treat people like lesser citizens and lesser people. The moment we treat a group of people as second-class citizens, we are not likely to progress. Whether gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, we are all human and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity under the law.

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