News / Africa

    Odinga Remarks Spark Persecution Fears for Kenya's Gay Community

    Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga takes a new oath of office after signing the new constitution into law, at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Aug 27, 2010 (file photo)
    Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga takes a new oath of office after signing the new constitution into law, at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Aug 27, 2010 (file photo)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Michael Onyiego

    Kenya's gay and lesbian communities say they are confused and worried after the country's prime minister called for the arrest of homosexuals.

    Recent statements made by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga have many gay and lesbian activists concerned that the country's gains in civil rights could be erased. Speaking Sunday at a rally in Kenya's largest slum, Kibera, Mr. Odinga told supporters that none would be spared from laws in the new constitution that criminalize homosexual acts. The premier said that any Kenyan found engaging in homosexuality or "lesbianism" would be arrested and jailed.

    Engaging in "homosexual acts" is currently a crime in Kenya, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

    Mr. Odinga's comments have provoked a measure of panic from Kenya's gay and lesbian community. A board member of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Nguru Karugu, said the comments could potentially drive Kenya's gay and lesbian communities underground.

    "The community will now fear and go back in," said Karugu. "Fear to go to testing, fear to go to health clinics, fear to get services, fear to go to the police, for fear of being arrested or being harassed. It was a major blow for some pretty good work that has been going on the last few years."

    Karugu said the Coalition is asking for clarification of the statements made by the prime minister, which he described as "out of left field." Gay and Lesbian issues have been a relatively untouched subject in Kenyan politics during the tenure of President Mwai Kibaki.

    The Prime Minister has similarly had relatively little involvement in the issue, but the coalition said his comments were detrimental to the country's fight against HIV and AIDS.  
    Kenya's National AIDS Control Council has recently moved to include gay and lesbian outreach in its fight against AIDS. In January, the prime minister attended and helped launch the group's 2010 Strategic Plan - the first that promised to work with homosexuals and other high-risk groups.   

    Clarifications made by the Prime Minister's office have called the remarks "off the cuff" - saying they did not indicate a shift in government policy. Kenya's new bill of rights prohibits discrimination on any grounds, but Karugu believes many will take Mr. Odinga's words as sanctioning discrimination against homosexuals.

    "Not only are people in their neighborhoods now feeling that they can easily be attacked because the prime minister - who is definitely a respected man in the country - said this, but healthcare workers who were before not sure whether they should deal with you or not may now choose not to," said Karugu.

    During the past two years, a series of anti-homosexual legislation has swept through the region, leaving many fearful that Kenya could soon adopt stricter measures against homosexuality.

    In 2009, a bill criminalizing homosexuality in Burundi was signed into law by President Pierre Nkurunziza. The Rwandan parliament also considered a similar bill that was thrown out after debate.

    In the same year, Uganda introduced a bill that would, in certain situations, impose the death penalty on people caught engaging homosexual acts. The punishment of death was later removed due to international pressure. The bill is still under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament.



    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora