Raila unwittingly unleashed a new wave of homophobia

Published: December 13, 2010

The Prime Minister’s declaration in Kibera, widely reported in the media, to the effect that there was no need for people to be gay and that gay people should be arrested, was met by consternation and surprise by the human-rights community — here and elsewhere.

To his credit, he recanted fairly quickly, clarifying that he had merely been explaining the provisions in this respect in the new Constitution and that he’d neither issued orders for the arrest of gay people nor intended to in the future.

Good.

But the damage done in some ways has not been reversed.

His declaration unleashed a public wave of homophobia — and triggered yet more harassment for extortion purposes of Kenyans perceived to be gay by the police.

The former was evidenced by letters to the editor and discussions on Kenyan listserves.

And the latter by testimony from those unfortunate enough to have come to the attention of those patrolling the streets.

What this all showed is this: Kenya is not exempt, as we’ve liked to believe, from the extreme levels of homophobia witnessed in the past few years across the continent and, most notably for us, across the border in Uganda.

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