News / Africa

Youth Quietly Fight Stereotypes of Gay Kenyans

Seventh in a series on Rising African Stars

Kenya gay and lesbian activists conceal their identity at a demonstration at Uganda High Commission in Nairobi on February 10 to protest a wave of laws against homosexuality in African countries.
Kenya gay and lesbian activists conceal their identity at a demonstration at Uganda High Commission in Nairobi on February 10 to protest a wave of laws against homosexuality in African countries.
As Kenyan lawmakers consider a law further outlawing homosexual behavior and gay activism, Jane Wothaya, a long-time advocate for the rights of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) in Nairobi, is continuing her fight from Washington, D.C.

Even as African governments outlaw homosexuality in Uganda, Nigeria and elsewhere, Wothaya has joined "not very out and open" activists who work for human rights in her homeland.

Wothaya was frustrated by the negative publicity and stigma that surrounds the LGBT minority in the Kenyan media. So she joined the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya to correct what she characterizes as wrong perceptions about Kenyans who fit that description.

Wothaya is a lesbian who advocates for LGBT rights. She was named an Atlas Corps fellow and now works with the Human Rights Campaign on gay community issues in Washington, D.C.

Lesbian Jane Wothaya tries to change public perceptions of gay people. (Courtesy Jane Wothaya)Lesbian Jane Wothaya tries to change public perceptions of gay people. (Courtesy Jane Wothaya)
x
Lesbian Jane Wothaya tries to change public perceptions of gay people. (Courtesy Jane Wothaya)
Lesbian Jane Wothaya tries to change public perceptions of gay people. (Courtesy Jane Wothaya)
Raising public awareness about gender issues is different in Kenya, she told VOA News.

“I work with a group that is relatively not very out and open in Kenya,” said Wothaya, “because while Kenya is not exactly a very conservative country, it’s a very religious country.”

Clergy contribute to the prejudice against Kenyan LGBT community

Kenya’s understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity is minimal, Wothaya said.

There is a lot of prejudice based on the views of many of Kenya’s clergy and “there have been inciting statements made by politicians and a lot of misinformation and ignorance about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity,” she said.

But it was social media and the mainstream press, radio and television that frustrated her the most.

“For example, we had radio stations that did call-in sessions where people would call and talk about the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya as though it is the devil or something," she said.

“And this was the kind of information that they were passing to their teenagers who were struggling to just get to know who they were and getting to discover what they were.”
 
Custom and tradition have perpetuated the problems for the gay community of Kenya. Wothaya described “the issue of living in a patriarchal society where gender role and gender norms are passed on for years and years, and so the prejudices and ignorance continue.”

Award-winning Kenya author Binyavanga Wainaina publicly declared his homosexuality in January in response to anti-gay movements in Uganda and NigeriaAward-winning Kenya author Binyavanga Wainaina publicly declared his homosexuality in January in response to anti-gay movements in Uganda and Nigeria
x
Award-winning Kenya author Binyavanga Wainaina publicly declared his homosexuality in January in response to anti-gay movements in Uganda and Nigeria
Award-winning Kenya author Binyavanga Wainaina publicly declared his homosexuality in January in response to anti-gay movements in Uganda and Nigeria
Wothaya and her coalition colleagues engage the Kenyan community in public discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation. They raise sensitivity and awareness to help the general  public to better understand and accept gay people.

The educational process is designed to get people to understand “that people don’t walk around with labels on their foreheads for you to see what their sexual orientation is. These people are your brothers, your sisters, your cousins, your employers and your employees.” 

Wothaya discusses human rights violations with authorities

The Kenya coalition also documents and addresses violations that result from “Draconian laws" that target the LGBT community. They take their concerns to police, policy makers and others.

Wothaya said harsh treatment by the police – and others – is partially rooted in a punitive law inherited from British colonialists that calls for anyone “indulging in unnatural acts” or “acts against the order of nature" to be prosecuted.

Punishment for these acts is seven to 14 years in jail, but Kenyan lawmakers are mulling tougher penalties. 

While the current Kenyan law is not as severe as the life sentence written into new legislation that President Yoweri Museveni of neighboring Uganda has signed, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya is working to completely remove the lingering legacy of colonialism from Kenya’s legal system.

Hear Jane Wothaya discuss gay advocacy in Kenya
Hear Jane Wothaya discuss gay advocacy in Kenyai
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid