Posts Tagged 'Kenya'

When The U.S. Backs Gay And Lesbian Rights In Africa, Is There A Backlash?

Uganda 2014 Pride

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

Repost from NPR

Everyone knew President Obama would say something about gay rights when he made his visit to Kenya last summer. Many American activists were pressing him to publicly condemn Kenya’s colonial-era law making homosexuality a crime.

But Kenyan gays and lesbians were wary. In the weeks leading up to Obama’s visit, Kenyan politicians took to the airwaves to assert their anti-gay bona fides. Deputy President William Ruto gave a guest sermon in a church to announce that Kenya “had no room” for homosexuality. As the vitriol increased, so did the incidents of violence, from assaults to rape.

“That was the most tense [period] in our life, before Obama came,” says John Mathenge, the director of a community center and health clinic in Nairobi called HOYMAS — Health Options for Young Men with HIV/AIDS and STIs. His clinic usually averages 50 visitors a day; in the weeks before Obama’s arrival there were no more than 2 or 3. “People weren’t even coming to collect their ARVs [anti-retroviral medication] because they feared they were going to be attacked.”

It wasn’t just Kenyans who were worried. OutRight Action International, a New York-based not-for-profit that advocates for LGBT rights around the world, took the position that President Obama should not mention gay rights when he visited Kenya.

“LGBTI rights have become a political lightning rod,” explained OutRight director Jessica Stern. Though the organization is devoted to pressing for gay rights overseas, she urged the U.S. government to push for “substance over symbolism” — that is, working behind the scenes to improve the legal and social climate for LGBT people rather than issuing too many public pronouncements that could be seen as finger-wagging and that could compromise the efforts of local activists. “We know it’s very easy for LGBTI Africans to be discredited as Western,” she said. (The acronym is a version of LGBT and stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.”)

Over the last four years, the American government has engaged in an ambitious campaign to defend the rights of gay and lesbian people overseas, especially in Africa, where the majority of countries outlaw homosexuality and anti-gay sentiment remains strong. But African activists struggle with the double-edged sword of American support. While they say that U.S. attention has given a needed boost to their movement, the protection of an outsider can complicate the path to true acceptance. Continue Reading at NPR

In Africa, homosexuality emerging as hot-button issue

Re-posted from The Christian Science Monitor

By Scott Baldauf, Staff writer / December 8, 2010

Johannesburg, South Africa

Long seen as a fringe societal taboo far from the realm of African politics, homosexuality is emerging as a hot-button issue throughout much of the continent. Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub, joined the trend in late November when Prime Minister Raila Odinga told supporters in the Nairobi slum of Kibera that he would order police to arrest gays.

“We will not tolerate such behavior in the country. The Constitution is very clear on this issue, and men or women found engaging in homosexuality will not be spared,” Mr. Odinga said in Swahili, in comments that were taped by several news organizations. “Any man found engaging in sexual activities with another man should be arrested. Even women found engaging in sexual activities will be arrested.” Continue to read this story.

Prime Minister of Kenya’s Office Explains Homophobic Comments

In this statement, the Prime Minister of Kenya’s office explains homophobic comments he made over the weekend.  The clarification still has some troubling language, but it shows that the Prime Minister understands the danger of his remarks, and he is at least attempting to contextualize them.

View the statement here


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