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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs