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Saturday, 15 May 2010

Kenya: Gays still 'criminals'

kenyaImage by kevinzim via Flickr
By Denis Nzioka

Kenya's Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Hon. Mutula Kilonzo, while leading a delegation to the just concluded Universal Peer Review in Geneva, Switzerland, has rejected calls to decriminalize consensual anal sex between men.

Under the current Penal Code, sections 162 to 165, it is criminal and illegal to engage in acts 'against the order of nature' which is interpreted to mean anal sex among men. The penalty is between 5 to 14 years imprisonment. Most Kenyans and foreigners caught engaging in anal sex are charged with sodomy. Brutal beatings are a common form of 'punishment' to those who are found engaging in anal sex as was evident in the recent attacks on gays in Mtwapa, Mombasa.

The Minister stated that the reason why they cannot reverse on its declaration is because homosexuality is a cultural taboo among Kenyans. During the Constitution review currently ongoing in Kenya, gay and human rights activists asked the Committee of Experts mandated with this task to include non-discrimination based on sexual orientation in the draft. However, their Chairman, Mr. Nzamba Kitonga rejected this proposal saying that Kenyans would reject the draft if it was allowed.

Mr. Mutula Kilonzo, in the statement released, said that homosexuals are not discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation. However, in a quick rejoinder, Denis Nzioka, of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and Gay Activists Alliance International Africa-Kenya, said that the statement was hypocritical and wrong. His comments appearing in one of the local dailies called for respect for the sexual rights of gays and showed disapproval to this statement as LGBTI persons are routinely harassed by police, held in remand for long and are charged with trumped-up charges and suffer other forms of discrimination and violence exactly based on their sexual orientation and sexual activity.

Kenya also rejected also the proposal to delete the death penalty from its books. Even though still legal, Kenya has not undertaken any executions since 1987. This has seen the number of those convicted and sentenced to die rise to an estimated 5,000 by last year.
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