In the wake of last month’s High Court decision in favor of a Kenyan organization seeking human rights for LGBTI people, some anti-gay Kenyans have opened the door to even more intense persecution of LGBTI Kenyans.
The latest step in that direction was today’s publication by Kenya’s tabloid Weekly Citizen of a list of the country’s “top” 14 gays and lesbians, with 10 front-page photos. LGBTI activists weren’t alone in criticizing the article; so did ordinary readers of the newspaper’s online blog. None of the early online remarks was positive; comments included “Shame on you,” “This is totally useless and uncalled for,” and “You must be proud for spreading hate.”
The tabloid listed several LGBTI activists but also, Gay Star News reported, some people who had not disclosed their sexual orientation.
Many people compared the Kenyan weekly to the Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper, which frequently targets homosexuals and lists “Top Homos,” as well as to the now-defunct Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone, which in October 2010 published “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos” with the heading “Hang Them.” That list featured Ugandan LGBTI rights activist David Kato, who was murdered three months later, in January 2011.
Gay Star News reported about the Kenyan list:
“‘If homophobes were looking to target people, if the police were looking to arrest people, if anti-gay youths were looking to attack some teen they assume is gay, they now have a face and a name,” Denis Nzioka, one of the names mentioned, told Gay Star News.
“We are now walking targets. While some of the people on the list are open about being gay, some are not. It is putting every person’s career, life and family at risk.”
Working together with fellow Kenyan LGBTI activist Eric Gitari [executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC)], Nzioka is reaching out to every person mentioned in order to ensure they are out of danger.
They are currently considering a class action lawsuit against the newspaper for endangering the lives of the people listed in the article.
The article came eight days after William Ruto, Kenya’s deputy president, told a church gathering on May 3 that Kenya has “no room for gays.” His remarks were a response to the High Court ruling of April 24. Ruto’s spokesman added that “The government believes that homosexual relations are unnatural and unAfrican.”
An existing Kenyan law, rarely enforced, provides for up to 14 years in prison for same-sex intimacy. The High Court ruled that that law was not a valid reason for refusing official recognition for the NGLHRC, which seeks to “advance the full participation, equality and inclusion of LGBTIQ individuals in the Kenyan democratic state.”
A similar ruling last year in Botswana requiring official recognition of the LGBTI rights group Legabibo was appealed by the Botswanan government. A similar appeal is expected in Kenya.
Ruto’s remarks drew criticism from Binyavanga Wainana, a well-known Kenyan writer who acknowledged last year that he is gay.
“Kenya’s deputy president joins an important tradition by Africans in power to spread hate in church on a Sunday,” he said on his Twitter account.
“Our Deputy President Ruto is building himself to be the most dangerous man in Africa. If his strategy works much will burn.”
Leaders of the Catholic Church in Kenya joined in the backlash to the High Court ruling. Although Pope Francis has urged tolerance for LGBTI people, Kenya’s Catholic bishops issued a statement on May 8 that took aim at the April 24 ruling. In their statement, the bishops repeated the frequent claims that LGBTI people somehow pose a threat to families and that, even if they are born in Africa, they have adopted an “un-African” ideology. The bishops also implied that, although LGBTI people in Africa are harassed, stigmatized and persecuted, they chose to be gay and did so for economic reasons:
“Fellow Kenyans, we are deeply disturbed by the recent High Court ruling allowing the registration of an Association of Gays and Lesbians. This is a deliberate attempt by certain individuals and institutions to push dangerous agendas and ideologies that are unnatural, un-African and un-Christian. It is a threat to the family.
“What happened to the assurance by the Attorney General to the country and religious groups that the constitution would not legalise same sex unions?
“Furthermore Kenyan law outlaws gay sex and sodomy, how then does the same law allow gays and homosexuals to register their organisation? Is this not a legal contradiction?
“Our stand as the Catholic Church on this issue is clear; that these unions go against nature and the teachings of the Bible – ‘He created them, male and female, and He blessed them.’ (Genesis 5: 2).
“We will not allow our country to be a sowing ground for strange ideologies in pursuit of narrow economic interests. We categorically reject any agenda fronting this kind of unnatural ideologies.”
That statement came shortly after a Vatican visit in April by Kenyan bishops.
- Christian leaders oppose LGBT rights in Kenya (christiantoday.com)
- LGBT Activist: Kenya More Tolerant, but Still Not Safe (voanews.com)
- Court orders Kenya to register LGBTI activist group (76crimes.com)
- Human Rights Commissioner Strässer on LGBTI rights in Kenya (appablog.wordpress.com)
- Deputy President of Kenya wants to Eradicate Gays (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
- “I am a homosexual, mum” by Binyavanga Wainana.