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In Kenya, a tentative step away from homophobia

Openly gay Kenyan senate candidate David Kuria Mbote (Photo courtesy of IdentityKenya.com)
Openly gay Kenyan senate candidate David Kuria Mbote (Photo courtesy of IdentityKenya.com)

Kenya serves as an African refuge for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, despite its laws against homosexuality.

Even though on paper Kenyan law provides up to 14 years in prison for same-sex activity, the country is much less repressive of LGBTs than Uganda and Zimbabwe, for example.

The latest example of Kenya’s sometimes tentative steps away from homophobia is the candidacy of an openly gay man for a senate seat.

David Kuria Mbote, 40, was co-founder and former general manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, or GALCK.   If he wins the election in March 2013, he would represent Kiambu County.

As a news website of The Standard newspaper reports:

Kuria [Mbote] has an uphill task of persuading the “conservative” Kiambu community that he is the best man for the job.Despite the discriminative nature and stigmatisation by the society, which considers him an outcast, what marvels both his friends and foes is his determination, boldness and the willingness to achieve what he terms as his destiny. …

During an exclusive interview with The County Weekly, Mbote was confident he will win the seat, and says he aims to change the political game by campaigning through the social media and committing himself to good governance in order to effect positive social change.

“If elected, my main priority will be creating laws to fight HIV. I know it is an uphill task campaigning to convince the society that despite my sexuality, I would put their interest first unlike many politicians.”

“I have received mixed responses from the voters as to whether they would vote for a gay politician,” he said.

Identify Kenya reported:

He has a challenging campaign ahead, as many people here reject homosexuality on the basis of religion. Voters are giving a mixed response on whether they would vote for a gay politician.

The 2010 constitution established a Senate, which will comprise representatives from each of Kenya’s 47 counties, 16 women nominated by the political parties, four other representatives of minority groups and a speaker. The elections are set for March 2013.

Some people have dismissed his aspirations as “a long shot” and “just a dream.” But Mbote, who is riding on what he calls the “Third Wave,” a movement to usher in innovative ideas and solutions to social challenges, says winning the Kiambu county senator seat is possible.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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