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September 20, 2018

We really must stop poking our noses into matters between consenting adults

First there was Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and his seemingly out of the blue comments on oral sex.

During the last couple of weeks there have been a number of issues that triggered intense levels of public interest and comment that got me thinking about why we, as society, feel it is our right to have a say about the things that happen between other consenting adults.

President Museveni was once adored around the world for his leadership in the fight against HIV-Aids in his country. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the leadership in neighbouring Kenya (for example) was too afraid to mention Aids for fear of putting off tourists and foreign investment, Museveni’s government preached openness and launched a massive public education campaign, which helped reverse Uganda’s Aids epidemic.

Why he now feels the urge to publicly ban oral sex between consenting adults is beyond me. If he has a personal objection to the practice, then surely that is his problem. Will he next decide that because he doesn’t like chicken wings, for instance, nobody else should ever enjoy them?

Then came the people of Kenya who felt offended and aggrieved because their old favourite opposition politician Kenneth Matiba was being cremated instead of having his remains buried in a grave like most of his countrymen. I read of people demanding that the Matiba family reconsider following the old man’s wish to be cremated. What on earth makes these constituents and others of their ilk think they have the right to dictate what happens to another person’s remains? I have always maintained that I will be cremated and if my kinsmen were to disrespect my wishes my spirit would haunt them forever.

Here in South Africa, the news emerged that former President Jacob Zuma, whom everybody pointed out is 76 years old, would be marrying again and that his bride is aged 24. Anyone who knows the former president knows he is a polygamist and so this really should not have been news, but it was.

Some people were offended about the age gap, others claimed to be upset that the bride was having the President’s 23rd (or is 26th?) child and yet others were behaving as if the bride had been forced into it, even though they had no idea about who she is other than from her name and photo, which appeared in some publications. None of these is a good enough reason to poke their nose into the former President’s affairs.

I feel the same way about gay rights. Kenyan law maintains that consenting same sex adults may not engage in sexual activity with each other. Many Kenyans support this law, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with them or how they live their lives. I have spent years as a gay activist arguing that sex between two consenting adults is a private act and therefore no one should interfere, especially the state. Hopefully, soon the courts will decriminalise gay sex along these lines.

As the Swahili people ask: pilipili usiyoila yakuwashiani? [If you didn't chew the pepper, then why complain about its heat?]

 

Follow me on Twitter @MwangiGithahu

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