October 4th, 2010
A growing backlash appears to be brewing in Kenya following remarks by Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi at an HIV/AIDS conference last week in Mombasa, in which she told those in attendance that acceptance of LGBT people, particularly gay men, will be critical in the fight against AIDS. That drew a swift condemnation from Muslim leaders in Kenya, followed by demands from a coalition of 74 Evangelical Christian churches that Murugi be fired:
The churches, under the aegis of the Federation of Evangelical Indigenous Christian Churches of Kenya (FEICCK) warned of street demonstrations against the Ms Murugi, the Special Programmes minister.
…”This [her firing] should happen in the shortest time possible; failure to which we shall not be left with any other option other than to ask those who care about righteousness and morality to demonstrate against her, “said FEICCK chairman Bishop Dr Joseph.
Dr Methu stressed unless intended to invite God’ wrath, Kenyans should not dare to allow homosexuality and lesbianism to thrive in the country.
“God will punish all forms of immorality despite who is promoting it and are at whatever level. We have observed Hon Murugi Transforming herself to becoming a trouble shooter and one who makes statements focused on demeaning and antagonizing the faith community in Kenya , “he further state in his statement to the Nation.
Murugi first stirred the controversy last week when she told an HIV/AIDS conference in Mumbassa, “”We need to learn to live with men who have sex with other men… we are in the 21st century and things have changed.”
While the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has been a predominately heterosexual epidemic, health care professionals say that gay men make up an important, growing, and under-served subset of the epidemic. Male homosexuality is a felony in Kenya, punishable with up to fourteen years’ imprisonment. Female homosexuality is not prohibited by law.
Kenya’s LGBT advocates are rallying to Murugi’s defense. Denis Nzioka of Gay Kenya writes:
All Kenyans, under the new Constitution have a right to health care regardless. Esther Murugi was simply echoing this by asking Kenyans to be accepting and open to the more than 2.4 million LGBTI Kenyans present in Kenya.
We support Esther Murugi and assure her of our complete support and encouragement in her endeavours. We wish to ask that religious leaders back down from their persistent calls for action to be taken against the Minister who was simply doing her work. Their calls are unwelcome, ignorant and miss the point. We, as Gay Kenya, support and echo those same sentiments of Esther Murugi, if not to advocate for gays to be accepted and respected, but at least to ensure access to health for all but especially those most at risk of infection – women, children, the physically challenged included.
In related news, a Catholic priest in the coastal town of Malindi issued a rather unconventional homily, in which he blamed the marriage of two Kenyan gay men in London, which made banner headlines across Kenya, on the failure of women:
“Today as we celebrate this Holy Mass, I am a very, very disappointed man,” said Fr Muli when he begun his sermon drawn from the book of Mark.
The packed cathedral was immediately sent into dead silence with the congregation wondering what the priest was up to, or what had disappointed him.
Fr Muli continued: “This so-called marriage between the two Kenyan men in London last week, why do you think it happened? What went wrong? What is the matter?”
This drew murmurs from the congregation culminating with loud “No, no, no” from the women when the priest said: “This was because the women are no longer marriageable”.
Fr Muli said men were resorting to marrying one another probably because the women had failed to provide what they should in marriage.
“Women, from the way I see it, have become too complicated and unattractive in marriage. You don’t provide what God intended you to give in marriage. You have frustrated the men so much leading them to trying among themselves whether they will get the joy that comes with marriage”.
Update: This notice went out from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GLKCK)
There is a debate question on page 14 of today’s Daily Nation where we are asked
‘SHOULD HOMOSEXUALITY BE LEGALIZED IN KENYA AS MINISTER MURUNGI PROPOSES?’
Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
I urge all members of GALCK and others to respond and send your comments. Let’s support the minister.
Given the debate over the supposedly “un-African” values of equality for LGBT people, coupled with the long-running African versus Colonial lens through which such debate take place, having a bunch of North American, European or Australasian commenters would be very counterproductive. But Kenyan and East African readers are strongly urged to send your comments to the Daily Nation.
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