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

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora