|Gay Kenyans at a past demo for health|
When David Kuria’s book, ‘Understanding Homosexuality in Kenya’ was still a manuscript, he had a hard time convincing publishers to print it. This caused him to take it to a make shift printer in Nairobi’s cheap and small business street, River Road and pay for it using his own cash to have it printed.
Though not warmly received and of a low quality, it gained popularity when it showcased at the 2007 World Social Forum in the ‘Q Tent’ where gays and lesbians came out in large numbers to congregate.
A year or so later, Harry*, a gay man appeared in a talk show to speak about his life. In the audience were other members of the gay and lesbian community.
From then on, gays and lesbians have appeared in numerous TV shows e.g. K24’s Untold Stories, the Patricia Show and The Taj Show both on Kenya Broadcasting Cooperative (KBC) . Countless have also been the interviews on radio stations – Radio Jambo, Radio Maisha, KISS 100, print – the Daily Nation, the Star and TV station – Citizen TV, Nation, KTN, e.t.c.
In addition to a sustained gay media projects – Gay Kenya and Minority Women in Action each have a monthly newsletter – Kenyans are slowly warming up to having gays open about their sexuality. Even though Kenya has no high-profile persons who are openly gay or lesbian whether in the fields of sport, politics or entertainment, there are reports that some politicians and rich business men are becoming more open about their sexuality.
Homosexuality is still illegal in Kenya. The Penal Code outlaws anal sex in Section 162 to 165. Whereas no one has been successfully jailed on that clause, yet there are cases of sodomy and public indecency that find their way in courts.
The profile of homosexuals in Kenya looks set to rise as the first openly gay man is set to run for political office – David Kuria. Using his campaign website and grassroots mobilization, David Kuria, who recently resigned as the General Manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), is aiming to be the first openly gay man elected for office in Kenya.
David Kuria is aiming to capture the Senate seat for Kiambu county come 2012. Reports are that he has a good following mostly to his portfolio and experience in both the health and poverty alleviation sectors of society.
Gays and lesbians are also coalescing and forming groups based on their home regions. So far, there are groups in Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Eldoret, Nakuru with many more coming up.
One in Lodwar is still nascent and it is hoped to bring together those gays and lesbians in the arid and semi arid areas. These groups are a direct result of the gays in these areas wishing to come together and create safe, social places to interact and share.
In addition to this, gays are rapidly becoming a social entity. Many now are openly meeting in bars and restaurants and are publicly showing affection for one another.
This is a far cry from a few years back. The high profile marriage of two Kenyans in the UK last year was seen by many as an affront to Kenyans yet many in the gay community say it was the pulling of the plug that they had been waiting for. Now, it’s even possible for gays and lesbians to have their unions blessed with an ordained minister who runs Other Sheep East Africa, a multi-denomination church that caters to LGBTI Christians.
This year, a gay pride march has become the talk of town; possibly during the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) celebrated on May 17th.This is after two successful marches that gay people were most prominent in – a Health and HIV/AIDS demonstration from Uhuru Park to the Treasury building to push for more HIV/AIDS funding and where Hon. Peter Kenneth, Assistant Minister for Planning addressed the crowd and the December 17th International Day Against Violence of Sex Workers where MSM sex workers took center stage.
Other small signs of the gay community's increasing prominence include a rock band made up of lesbian singers – though they are not openly known as a lesbian group. In addition, several gay plays have been staged and a two day gay and lesbian film festival is being planned.
Several prominent Kenyans have come out in defense of gays and lesbians. One such is Hon. Esther Murugi, Minister of Special Programmes who caused a stir last year when she advocated for MSM rights to health care. She was supported by Hon. Mutula Kilonzo, Kenya’s Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs who echoed the same sentiments.
Commissioner Lawrence Mute of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) is also known to be particularly supportive of gays. Ann Njogu and winner of the International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award has also written in support of gays. Prof. Makau Mutua, Muthoni Wanyeki, TV and theater personality, John Sibi Okumu and talk show host Caroline Mutoko are considered as champions for gay rights in Kenya. Several newspaper columnists have come out to support gays. Among them are Mwangi Githahu, Valentine Njoroge of The Star and Clay Muganda of The Daily Nation.
*Not his real name