If Kenya’s self-appointed Moral Policeman, Ezekiel Mutua, was to visit South Africa right now and tune into some of the biggest locally made African prime-time dramas on weeknight television, he would have a conniption fit.
At least three of the country’s leading soaps are dealing with gay “coming out” stories. These would make Ezekiel and his disciples apoplectic with rage. They would insist that “dark forces” sponsored by Western powers are paying TV stations off to publicise a “gay agenda”.
Of course there is no such agenda, and if there was, I’d have to commend those behind it for such a sustained campaign. In each of the three dramas, sons of leading characters have reached the point in their lives where the time has come to confront the truth about who they really are, and share this truth with their beloved parents and other significant members of their circle.
As many people, myself included, who have had to undertake this journey at some point in their lives will tell you, it can be a harrowing experience and not one that most people take lightly. Generally the South African TV shows have handled the matter with intelligence and sensitivity, while still managing to inform and entertain audiences.
South Africa was the first country in the world to have a constitution that expressly forbids unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Nevertheless, there are enough examples of violence against lesbians and gays here to prove that you can’t legislate away hate. This is why it is important to have these TV shows and films that appeal to a wide audience showing LGBT people in a sensitive light.
If these shows were being screened in Kenya, I can just imagine that there would be a rash of angry letters to the editor, tweets and press statements lashing out at the Gay Mafia or, as Robert Mugabe once suggested, gay gangsters, and their control of the media.
The TV channels would probably be taken off air or at the very least the programmes would be banned, and all because Ezekiel and his chums have arrogated to themselves the right to decide for all Kenyans what to see on film or television. By his recent actions banning a Kenyan film being feted at some of the biggest industry festivals in the world, Ezekiel Mutua has infantilised the entire population of adult Kenyans and made it look as though he is the only adult in the whole country.
What baffles me is that the majority of people appear quite happy to hand over this aspect of their maturity by not opposing Ezekiel, who really should be fired for showing a wilful misunderstanding of his job.
But then again, we seem not to have grasped the fact that, in the words of American sociologist Charles Wright Mills, “Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them — and then, the opportunity to choose.”