Justice for the LGBTI community in Kenya

Linked on our blogs with 2011 award winner is a gay rights activist from Africa. – Published on Pambazuka News, by Gullit Makobe, May 10, 2011.

‘Before I became a Human Rights Defender, I had to safe guard my living space in a closet. I knew I was safe – nothing could or would harm me – I felt untouchable. I had a place to call home, and I held on to it never jeopardizing the privileges. But all that changed when my family learnt about my sexual identity,’ writes Gullit Makobe.

Before I became a Human Rights Defender, I had to safe guard my living space in a closet. I knew I was safe – nothing could or would harm me – I felt untouchable. I had a place to call home, and I held on to it never jeopardizing the privileges. But all that changed when my family learnt about my sexual identity – resentment now set in.

Unlike many LGBTI members, I feel that, having been born in that family, I have a right to continue being part of it. A lot of the LGBTI community, especially at the grassroots level, do not have a place to lay their heads down at night; they end up in parks and some are raped while trying to get some sleep.  

When it comes to illiteracy, some never passed through a classroom door or finish their schooling because of the poverty in their families. And when they ‘come out’ and their families become aware of their sexual identity; they become the curse of the family and the reason for its poverty – and this seems to give the family the right to kick them out.

Those who are unable to finish their education because they ‘came out’, or the school discovered the truth about their sexuality; they face expulsion from one school after another. Others are given a second chance with an ultimatum: ‘change your cursed and sick behavior, and take up the role that society has assigned to you from birth’ … //

… Is it not sacrilegious or ungodly when a priest preaches water and drinks wine? Are priests not supposed to minister to ALL their flock? To show them love and understanding, not condemnation. The oft-quoted reference to homosexuality as a sin is a passing phrase in Leviticus in the Old Testament. The Old Testament also tells us not to eat shrimps, discipline a disobedient child, and umpteen other admonitions – do we follow those to the letter? South Africa’s white supremacists based their brutal policy of apartheid on a verse in the Old Testament! And please note: the New Testament makes NO mention of homo-sexuality.

We become outcasts in the family, a joke to society and before you know it people are disgusted with us and even plan ways of eliminating us. We face the community’s malicious backlashes and gossip about our sexual identity from nosy neighbors; we are evicted from office premises and harassed at work. It is very difficult for an LGBTI person to ensure their own secure space, not even our homes are safe. Even though we keep to ourselves we are exposed to obnoxious questions.

Such stigma can lead to torture and death. In Senegal LGBTIs are actually set on fire even on mere suspicion. Recently six men were arrested and charged for holding a party in one of the guy’s house with no female present – now they are serving 10 years in prison on suspicion of being gay!

It would be understandable for an illiterate person, or a young person, to question a same sex relationship. But for learned persons and academia to do so is unacceptable. When the Hon. Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya, Mr Raila Odinga, orders the arrest of Gays and Lesbians in the country on a mere conjecture, where is our security? He has done so on two occasions: in Kibera on 28 November and in the KICC on 1 December last year on World Aids Day. This year, we the lesbians and sex workers held a silent demonstration to protest to the Prime minister’s remarks. He is playing with people’s lives just to make a political point. This is not about who gets more votes but about how many people in the country will perish from his irresponsible utterances.

It is insinuated that Gays and Lesbians need ‘modification’. From what, into what, to be who? I ask what is it that we do that needs to be approved? The LGBTI communities are not animals or plants that can be made extinct. It is heterosexual couples that give birth to the LGBTI community. You cannot hunt us down and deny us our natural basic God given human rights which are our birth right. We are Kenyans too – and nothing and nobody can change that. (full text).

Link: Justice for the people of Kenya, on Pambazuka News, by Zahid Rajan and Zarina Patel, May 10, 2011.

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