Kenya: Backlash against gays and lesbians starts

Daily Nation - 28 Jan 07
Even before the week in which Kenyan gay and lesbian issues came to the fore at the just-concluded World Social Forum (WSF) was over, the backlash against the homosexual community had begun.
Some of the first reactions came from the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) meeting in Mombasa.

CIPK secretary-general Sheikh Mohamed Dor was reported to have asked the Government to clamp down on homosexuals beginning with those speaking at the the forum, whom he said should be arrested by police.

Said the statement in part: “The Muslim community is against homosexuality because the vice is ungodly. Both the Koran and the Bible condemn the vice.”

The Kenya Anti-Rape Movement founder, Ms Fatma Anyanzwa, said calls for the recognition of same-sex relationships should be ignored, and instead efforts made to counsel those practising it.

The self-confessed lesbians and gays, she said, were victims of psychological, social and material disadvantages that they could not handle and were finding escape in the very problem they have.

Speaking at the Nation Centre yesterday, Ms Anyanzwa claimed she had been counselling some lesbians and gays in the city in confidence.

“Oral and anal sex are not pleasurable and have no benefit at all to those who take part in it. Most of them, if they are to be honest, will admit that the parts with which they engage in the unnatural sexual acts are always painful,” said Ms Anyanzwa.

Kenyans writing in the blogosphere (the collective term for all internet blogs or diaries as a community or social network) have also joined in the condemnation of the Kenyan gays and lesbians who appeared in newspaper articles, on radio and television shows campaigning for equal rights.

Already one blogger going by the blogname “Blake” has set up a spot entitled “Kenyans Against Gays”, which by Friday had registered a healthy number of hits.

At the closing ceremonies of the WSF at Uhuru Park on Thursday afternoon, a Ugandan lesbian activist who had made a dramatic appeal for tolerance of alternative lifestyles was heckled by members of the audience.

At one point, she was threatened by a group of dreadlocked men who chanted “fire” as she walked past them away from the dais. The activist was not physically harmed but was very badly shaken. But she had to be escorted out of the venue by members of the gay and lesbian community who formed a protective cordon around her.

Earlier, what the Irish writer Oscar Wilde referred to as “the love that dare not speak its name” had shouted the news of its existence in Kenya, East Africa and the world as a whole using a public address system in a tent set aside as a “safe space” for members of the gay and lesbian community.

From this tent, the Q-Spot, the message from members of a Kenyan umbrella body for the community, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (Galck) was “we are queer, we are here and we are proud.” Never in Kenya’s history has there been such an open and politically charged gathering of homosexual men and women.

A Ugandan lawyer and academic Sylvia Tamale called it “a historical moment” as she marvelled at a crowd of about 150 people who had gathered to listen to a panel discussion of homosexual rights, the law and strategies to overcome discrimination.

When the Sunday Nation visited the Q-Spot on Tuesday afternoon, the tent was full of people both young and old. Many came out of curiosity to see what all the fuss was about, some to express solidarity and a few to make contact with like-minded types. The agenda of the day was how to get the gay issue on the human rights agenda.

Mr Lawrence Mute of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said that the official watchdog had a responsibility to protect the rights of all Kenyans, including the gays and lesbians.

The commissioner pledged support for homosexual men and women sacked from employment or expelled from educational institutions on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Prof Tamale told the gathering that getting homosexual acts between consenting adults decriminalised was the most vital issue for gays and lesbians in East Africa.

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