Africa

Kenyan leader speaks against anti-gay violence

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (Photo courtesy of Africom.com)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (Photo courtesy of Africom.com)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta warned yesterday against “witch-hunts” targeting homosexuals.

In an interview Oct. 18 with CNN, he dismissed proposals to repeal Kenya’s law against same-sex relations, but said that all Kenyans have a right to protection under the law.

In an interview with CNN on Oct. 18, Kenyatta discussed LGBT issues, saying that the nation “will not allow people to persecute any individuals  …  Or just to beat them, or to … torture them.”

Kenyatta did not specifically mention sex workers, but the Kenyan newspaper The Star presented his remarks in the context of recent murders of sex workers:

“Uhuru’s stance on violence against homosexuals comes after the killing of four prostitutes, whose bodies were disfigured, in Nakuru county last week. The face of one of the victims was skinned and her eyes gouged out, while some body parts were missing.

“The Kenya Sex Workers Association wrote an open letter to the President following the incidents and asked him to help end the killings, believed to be targeted. In the letter, national coordinator Felista Abdalla said at least 40 sex workers are murdered every month, and that one was killed in Kisii and another in Nanyuki.The sex workers said they have sought help in vain from the state.”

Human Rights Watch recently reported that mobs in Kenya’s coastal region have repeatedly attacked people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition, the Anglican Church of Uganda last month discharged five priests accused of homosexuality.

This is a transcript of the portion of the Kenyatta interview with CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria that dealt with sexual minorities:

Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria of CNN

ZAKARIA: When people talk about gay rights to you and President Obama did this on his visit there. You say look, we have our culture we have our traditions, don’t try to impose your values on us. The problem for many in the west is that it’s not really seen as a matter of cultural values it’s seen as a matter of innate human rights that these people are – you know that you are in effect depriving people of their rights merely because of something that is God-given. That is – that they were born with, that there is increasing scientific evidence that this is the case. And why would you persecute people for something that they have ultimately no control over?

KENYATTA: Let me make it clear to you and put it this way, right. I think first and foremost we’re all saying that whatever society you come from right, the principal aim is that you must give the people you know their right to choose, all right?

Now where we are and at the level of development that we are in, I am not saying that these people don’t have their rights, that’s not what I’m saying. I am just saying that the majority – the majority in our society yes, do not wish to legalize, yes, this issue of gay rights.

ZAKARIA: Can you persuade them?

KENYATTA: The people in Kenya are not, at this point in time, and that’s exactly what I said when we were with President Obama, yes. To them this is not an issue that they are going to put at the center. They have more pressing issues.

However, that said and done I am also, right, and will not allow people to persecute any individuals yes. Or just to beat them, or to you know torture them, you know.

ZAKARIA: But you do allow persecution because they’re – because they’re criminalized.

KENYATTA: What I’m saying witch hunts – what I am saying is witch hunts. You know we won’t allow people to take the law into their own hands and harass and no we won’t. All right. Every individual has a right to be protected by the law and that’s stated in our constitution, all right.

But what we are saying is that as a society, right, we do not accept some of these values, right. And this is where I am saying we have to get synergies. You’re not going to create the United States or Great Britain or the Netherlands in Kenya, or in Nigeria or Senegal overnight. We have to understand that these are processes and they take time.

Under Kenyan law, consensual same-sex intimacy is punishable by 14 years in prison.

In April, the High Court of Kenya found that the Kenyan government has no right to refuse to register the National Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC ), an organization opposing that law. The Kenyan government is appealing that decision.

The Obamas pose with His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya.

Barack and Michelle Obama post with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during his August 2014 visit to the United States.

 

In July, during a visit to Kenya, Obama said, “I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law. And they are deserving of equal treatment under the law and the state should not discriminate based on their sexual orientation.”  While in Kenya, he met with Eric Gitari, executive director of the NGLHRC.

At his July press conference with Obama, Kenyatta said, “For Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue.  We really want to focus on other areas that are day-to-day living for people.”

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