It’s time to fight back against homophobia

Nobody gives you your right, you have to take it

In Summary

• The pan-African anti-LGBTQIA+ crusade calls for a pro-active stance

Image: OZONE

There appears to be something of an anti-LGBTQIA+ community crusade across Africa at the moment.

In several countries, at all points of the compass, there are campaigns, invariably led by politicians and supported by certain religious leaders, to demonise members of the community and find arguments to prevent society normalising rights and freedoms for all people.

In Uganda, where persecution of the community seems to be a cyclical thing, Parliament last month ordered an investigation into the alleged promotion of homosexuality in schools. 

The legislators seem to believe that people, and impressionable children in particular, can be “recruited” into the community as if sexual orientation is a choice.

In Namibia, the Attorney General has described homosexuality as immoral in a bid to uphold the country’s ban on same-sex sexuality at that country’s Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Egypt and Tunisia, government officials are targeting community members based on their activity on social media and other online platforms.

In Kenya, where I can honestly say I know of a number of vehement public critics of the community who in private tell a different tale, the North African-style digital targeting would probably be a risky tactic as it could bring surprising results. 

But that hasn’t stopped a bigoted bunch of poorly informed, if not outright ignorant, leaders from broadcasting their files of disinformation about the recent Supreme Court ruling on freedom of association for all people.

All of these pan-African campaigns have something in common: they all claim to be the continent's foremost experts on culture, morality and, most importantly, “Africanness”. 

To slightly paraphrase what the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) said when it took a public position on rights related to Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation more than a decade ago: “Being LGBTQIA+ is not ‘un-African’ — Africa’s history is replete with examples of how those of different gender identities and sexual orientations were named and addressed by various communities. 

“Even if it were not, the fact that some Kenyans now identify as being LGBTQIA+ openly makes being so African.” 

The KHRC went on to argue that all Kenyans are entitled to equality under the law — and to be free from discrimination in education, in employment, in health care provision, in housing, and so on. All Kenyans are entitled to security of the person — and to be free from violence. 

It said that all Kenyans are entitled to privacy — and to be free from arbitrary and illegal intrusions on this privacy. Regardless of what prejudices and stereotypes persist about Kenyans who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex, these entitlements stand.

And finally, it cautioned against implying that these entitlements exist only for some Kenyans. It said that in declaring themselves defenders of “authentic” (though often invented) African cultural traditions, such people pit “culture/African family values/morality” against human rights and attempt to subject sexuality to restrictive state control.

Sadly, those waging the war against the LGBTQIA+ community couldn't care less what the Constitution says and, in fact, they are busy searching for ways to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision, even if it means overturning all the decisions the court has ever made.

I am aware that as I write this, it is still possible for families to disown LGBTQIA+people. Landlords can use the fact that you are homosexual to throw you out of your accommodation, and employers can fire you on grounds of your sexuality. 

Socially, many LGBTQIA+ people continue to be harassed in public places, such as bars and restaurants. 

As I have said previously, Kenya's LGBTQIA+ community still needs to find acceptance, tolerance and protection from their compatriots and the law. 

Perhaps the time has come to stop begging for our rights, because if our rights are given to us, they can be taken away by the givers.

In this way, and this is something the politicians might understand, it's like Jock Ewing's law of power. If somebody gives you power, then you've got nothing. Nobody gives you power. Real power is something you take. 

Under Seige

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