If you were in a half-decent high school in Kenya, mostly boarding, then you must have heard of, if not experienced homosexuality in its literal meaning, way before you knew what it means to be gay. My high school had lots of homosexuals. A number of students got expelled allegedly for being homosexuals. What I never understood and probably never will is whether it was because they had sex in school or because they had it with people of same sex or both.
Cases of homosexuality are popular in our high schools, that’s no doubt. If I’m asked, I’d say it’s nothing more than sexual starvation that our young selves impose on ourselves due to early indulgence in sexual activity. If you want to know, ask the known homosexuals from your high school if they still are. Young children today engage in sexual activity before they can handle it, and the result?
A very close friend of mine in high school liked guys. So, there’s this classmate of ours (I was in a boy school, just to be clear) that he kind of liked, or maybe thought was also into guys. So over the holidays, he got his number and did what guys normally do when they like a girl, except this time, he liked a boy. When schools reopened, the boy that was liked rained on my friend with slaps that drew the attention of the entire class and said, “Usiwahiniambia hizo ujinga tena…” This became an issue that we had to cover up to save our friend from expulsion.
Another former schoolmate of mine, three years senior to me, recently publicly decided that s/he is a woman stuck in a man’s body. He transgendered and his family didn’t take it kindly. The mother, I was told, couldn’t just accept the fact that her son decided to become the daughter she never had. His parents were totally devastated. He was considered no less than an outcast in the society by everyone he used to call family. I don’t know how the story ended, or will end, but I’ll find out and update you.
Last year, I had an impending situation which compelled me to seek the services of one of the public toilets in Nairobi CBD. In the gent’s room, a writing on the wall said, “Call for gay f**k” with a phone number below. Had I taken the number; had I texted or called; a man would actually show up at my doorstep or wherever we agreed to meet, to sleep with me, or would it an undercover cop on a mission to curb ‘unnatural offences’. In Kenya? This was rather awakening. In some way, it whispered to me that we’re not actually stuck in the 80’s.
The constitutional battle to decriminalize consensual same sex relations in Kenya is far from won. There is an impending case in the Kenya High Court, Eric Gitari v Attorney General & another (Petition no. 150 of 2016), which seeks to repeal sections 162 and 165 of The Kenyan Penal Code of 1930, revised in 20061.
Section 162 of the Penal Code partly states:
Any person who –
(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years:
Provided that, in the case of an offence under paragraph (a), the offender shall be liable to imprisonment for twenty-one years if –
(i) the offence was committed without the consent of the person who was carnally known; or
(ii) the offence was committed with that person’s consent but the consent was obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of some kind, or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false representations as to the nature of the act.
In the Kenya’s Bill of Rights stipulated in the Kenyan constitution, it is specifically stated, “every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on the free consent of the parties”2. It is clear that those who seek to marry persons of the same sex have no right within this constitution.
While visiting Kenya in 2015, former US President, Barrack Obama publicly confronted President Kenyatta and other African leaders for discriminating against gay people. Uhuru’s response was very clear and one thing I believe all Kenyans can agree on, “there are somethings that we must agree we don’t share in common with the United States…for Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue”3.
In reality, when it comes to gay rights, the Kenyan society is made in such a way that it is really a non-issue. We are specifically not prepared to handle issues pertaining to gay rights. As a society, we are not particularly welcoming to those who have publicly identified themselves as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersexual. Someone being gay in Kenya is still an issue worthy of gossip in secret conversations.
As a matter of fact, being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender isn’t a genetic condition. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni put a team of scientists to task to find out if (1) there is a scientific or genetic basis for homosexuality and (2) if homosexuality can be learned or unlearned. The team found out, among other things, that there is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality; it is not a disease, nor an abnormality and that homosexuality can be influenced by environmental factors4.
Sexual orientation is, therefore, a choice that one makes. Whether or not I want to be intimate with a fellow man, is totally up to me. We are made to be loved. As human beings, we cannot survive in this cold world without love. Without loving and being loved, loneliness would kill us. Whoever it is that you share your life with, is your responsibility and your right to choose as you please.
Our society is so rooted in culture and religion that sexuality is something shied away from. Intersexual people in most parts of Kenya are considered as outcasts and a curse to their parents, yet they are born merely out of a genetic mistake. Homosexuality is mostly associated with cultism in Kenya and no one really wants to associate with anyone who publicly identifies themselves as LGBT.
It is unnatural to engage in sexual activity with a person of the same gender, that I agree, but it’s not insane. It’s just a choice that is influenced by our environment and experiences. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong to be gay, but I know someone should not undergo emotional torture and/or isolation if they decide to be.
The question we need to ask ourselves as a society is whether we are civilized enough to accept and respect the decisions people make about their sexuality. If they harm no one, and their choice makes them happy, why shouldn’t we be happy for them? If our society is to be built upon moral standards and not obsolete cultural prejudices that only take us aback, we cannot look down upon those who decide against what we believe to be natural or right.
It all comes down to one question, if someone you care about tells you that they’re gay, how welcoming would you be to them? It’s Africa, yes! But we can do better with our attitude. If you’re a man and another man seduces you, it doesn’t make you any less of a man to tell him, “I’m sorry bro, but I’m not really into guys.” As a parent, if your son or daughter decides to be gay or transgender, would you be willing to accept and respect their decision?
I am not gay, but if I were, would it change the love, respect or compassion you have for me, if doesn’t change mine for you?
- “Kenya Penal Code, Sections 162, 163, and 165” (PDF).
- Constitution of Kenya, 2010.
- Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta clashes with President Obama on LGBT equality: ‘Gay rights is really a non-issue’| The Independent by Kiran Moodley
- Uganda: Scientific statement from the Ministry of Health on homosexuality | Pambazuka
by Vincent Owino