Kenya: gay rights activists need a change in approach

Published: August 3, 2014

In January this year, Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan passed the controversial anti-gay law that imposes a 14-year jail sentences for gay people who marry, and punishes any gathering of LGBT people.


Hot on their heels in February, Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni also signed into law another draconian anti-gay law that provides for 14 years in jail for first-time offenders. Repeat gay sex offenders or gay sex involving a minor, or someone with HIV can lead to life imprisonment.


The Ugandan law also made it a crime for anyone to be aware of homosexual activity and fail to report it. President Museveni said he was defending the country from "arrogant and careless Western groups that are fond of coming into our schools and recruiting young children into homosexuality."


President Museveni’s words express the general feeling among many people who feel that the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) community is trying to foist their way of life on the public.


This misconception is further reinforced by the donors from the developed world by the pressure that they are putting on developing nations to recognise that discrimination of LGBTIQ people is a human rights issue.


For instance, last week at the International Aids conference in Melbourne, Australia, Nobel Laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who co-discovered HIV said, "We need to shout out loud that we will not stand idly by when governments, in violation of all human rights principles, are enforcing monstrous laws that only marginalise populations that are already the most vulnerable in society," he said.


Following his statements and those of Australian High Court judge Michael Kirby that African governments, "cannot expect taxpayers in other countries to shell out, indefinitely, huge funds for anti-retroviral drugs if they simply refuse to reform their own laws and policies to help their own citizens," one of the local dailies carried the story with the inflaming title ‘Embrace gay sex or forget aid, Kenya told’.


"They can keep that aid. We are Africans and homosexuality is not an African practice save for a few lost souls." … "In violation of all human rights principles? He’s on drugs.


The last time I read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which I believe Kenya has signed, there were no same-sex rights. Good try, but no cigar"… "Being poor can humiliate you so much.


Homosexuality is not part of the African culture, but because Kenya and other African countries are poor and vulnerable, these guys from the West want to impose homosexuality on the Africans.


They should be told to keep their billions of Dollars rather forcing African countries to legalise what is basically a Western way of life", read some of the comments at the end of the article.


What both the article and the comments clearly show is the great disconnect between donors and LGBTIQ activists in the west, and the very same people that they are trying to help. Most of the Western LGBTIQ activists have little or no knowledge of the African countries they target, beyond their stand on sexual minorities.


It also comes off as being hypocritical, because most Western countries that demand for the acknowledgement of LGBTIQ groups in developing countries are yet to fully embrace the notion themselves. Statistics have also shown that the worst cases of social injustice against sexual minorities occur in the developed world.

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