Kenya: a safe haven for persecuted gays?

Nairobi (dpa) – While homophobia is on the rise across Africa, the gay community in Kenya has managed to win a small degree of acceptance despite homosexuality remaining illegal in the East African country.

Gay people have been able to stage small public protests to advocate equal rights. The community has even hosted its own film festivals, and social media has discreetly facilitated same-sex dating.

In 2013, David Kuria Mbote became the first openly gay person to run for public office in the country. In January, acclaimed author Binyavanga Wainaina declared his homosexuality in a heartfelt essay that received praise from many Kenyans.

Gay activists credit backstage lobbying with achieving better equality in public health. Kenya’s National AIDS Council, for example, provides gays with targeted treatment and disease prevention services.

Whilst in other countries in Africa, “people import lubricant under cover,” lubricants and condoms are easily available in Kenya, says Kevin Mwachiro, who works in Nairobi for the gay rights group Hivos Forum and wrote a book about homosexual and transgender Kenyans.

Kenya has become a safe haven for gays fleeing discrimination in Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni signed a law in February that foresees lengthy prison sentences – in certain cases, even life sentences – for homosexuals.

Dozens of Ugandan gays and lesbians have travelled to Kenya as harassment and violence against them have increased in their home country. More than 20 have been registered as refugees with the United Nations.

Yet with anti-homosexual sentiment on the rise across Africa, Kenyan gay, lesbian and transgender people worry of a rollback on the modest but growing movement for equal rights in their country.  Read more…

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