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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs