Now that Uganda and Nigeria have signed new draconian anti-gay bills into law, other anti-gay efforts in Africa are gaining international attention. Recently, anti-gay activists have unveiled a new initiative against the LGBTQ community in Kenya. A press release posted at the Save Our Men Initiative Facebook page announced the launch of Zuia Sodom Kabisa (Swahili for "Prevent Sodom Completely") in Nairobi on February 28th. The statement demonizes gays as "moral deviants" whose are forcing their "decadence" on Kenyan society, and whose "onslaught" has the full support of western governments.
"The voice of the homosexuals is becoming louder and bolder every day in Kenya. The support the homosexual community is getting from Western governments like Netherlands and Germany has given Homosexuals boldness that borders on intimidation for the few voices of reason that are standing against their onslaught. The vocal and incessant support the homosexuals are getting from President Barak Obama of USA is worrying. Whole nations like Uganda have been threatened with dire consequences for making a decision to ban homosexuality based on scientific-cultural facts and sound moral considerations.These anti-gay activists worry that Kenya may interpret its constitution in a gay-friendly manner. Earlier this month, Zuia Sodom Kabisa launched a petition drive to collect one million signatures against homosexuality, according to the Star. The petition is intended to warn Kenyan parliament against a "liberal interpretation" of the country's constitution "in favour of the homosexual community".
Save Our Men Initiative (SOMI) in conjunction with the Church, Professionals, council of elders and religious groups, are hereby making their stand against this moral decadence that is posing a real threat to the core foundation of the Kenyan society. We insist that this is a moral issue which goes against the conscience of the silent majority in Kenya. This is about few moral deviants forcing their values and unnatural behavior on the quiet majority with the aid of Western governments who could otherwise be spending their resources in stemming the crisis in Syria and elsewhere. The west has a misplaced set of priorities when it comes to morality."
The launch of Zuia Sodom Kabisa comes as Kenyan lawmakers are pushing for stronger enforcement of Kenya's anti-gay laws. Kenya's penal code already defines physical intimacy "against the order of nature" as a felony punishable by 14 years in prison, and "gross indecency" between males as punishable by 5 years in prison, reports Reuters. According to Voice of America, Kenyan MP Irungu Kang'ata has asked the country's ruling party to outline measures that the government has taken to uphold anti-gay laws. Kang'ata, the head of a new anti-gay caucus, may introduce new legislation imposing additional penalties on gays if parliament deems current laws insufficient, Voice of America reports.
LGBTQ rights supporters have expressed concern over these developments. Eric Gitari, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Kenya, worries that government persecution of LGBTQ people would be a slippery slope to greater human rights violations. "If we are going to look into the bedrooms of people and supervise what they are doing, what is going to stop the government from looking at our emails, hacking into them, from listening to our phone conversations, from looking at our bank accounts and checking our transactions," Gitari said, according to the Christian Post.
Kenyan MP Irungu Kang'ata and Zuia Sodom Kabisa supporter Archbishop Arthur Kitonga participated in a panel discussion with K24 Evening Edition on the topic of gays and lesbians. At the 4:44 mark. Gitonga condemned homosexuality as contrary to the Bible, championing the Biblical mandate to men and women to be fruitful and multiply. He also seemed to suggest that Kenya's population would not have grown to over 40 million if gays had prevailed.*
"When God created Adam and Eve, he blessed them and he told them to be fruitful and to multiply. When we began this world, when Kenya was born, now we are celebrating the Jubilee year, even if we started with the gays, we would not even be 40 million. There would [inaudible] there would be more people and in the next 30 years, there will be nobody in Kenya. The will of God is for people to multiply and to be fruitful and to be happy, so it is not scriptural, and the Bible says heaven and earth shall pass but the word of God will be fulfilled. There is judgment for gays after this life ... Gay is not biblical. It's not in the Bible, and if we can follow the scriptures very well, we know why God judged and destroyed the land of [inaudible] in the time of [inaudible] because of sodomy."At the 12:13 mark, Gitonga quoted Leviticus 20:13, which condemns sexual relations between men as a capital offense. At the 12:57 mark, Gitonga and K24 Evening Edition host Belinda Obura discussed the claim that African homophobia is a western import.
OBURA: So what is your argument to those who state that fellow Christians are the ones who are advocating to those principles coming from a certain aspect of the west? There are those who are pushing for it, but there are those who are stating that you're overzealous Christians and you're just wanting--they've not found a place anymore in the west to be able to advocate for their [inaudible] gays [inaudible] and have brought it to Africa?Obura asked Irungu Kang'ata if the recent wave of anti-gay legislation in Africa was motivated by political ambition. At the 9:24 mark, instead of wrestling with Obura's question, Kang'ata spoke of homosexuality and bestiality in the same breath (a tired but familiar trope used by American Religious Right figures as well).
GITONGA: Those are not committed Christians. They are fake Christians ... It's just a matter of carrying the word "Christianity", and it's not in their heart. But those who believe in the word of God, it doesn't matter which country they come from, it doesn't matter who is who, you have to follow the word of God.
OBURA: Is it really about maintaining African culture, or is it about getting political endearment? As many people have been stating, that is what African politicians are doing, stating Ugandan president Museveni coming up for re-election, doing that as well. What's your take?Kang'ata and Zuia Sodom Kabisa rely on old, tired rhetoric to justify their homophobic stance, rejecting LGBTQ equality as an alleged western imposition. Their homophobic chestnuts -- LGBTQ rights as a threat to the country, equality allegedly being "forced" on the majority, gays as "deviants", homosexuality and bestiality as twin behaviors -- bear a remarkable resemblance to the anti-gay rhetoric of the American Religious Right.
KANG'ATA: ... The reason why we don't support gay is that one of the arguments that [inaudible] support gay [inaudible] this is something that is consensual, there is no victim. If we are to agree to such kind of a theory, then to me all the victimless crime in our statute books have to go. For instance, bestiality. It is against the law to sleep with an animal. Well, if you're saying there's nothing wrong with me sleeping with a another man, what wrong is there for me to sleep with a cat, with a dog, with a monkey? There is nothing wrong!
Will Kenya follow in the footsteps of Uganda and Nigeria, signing even harsher anti-gay measures into law? Will the Kenyan LGBTQ community succeed in enlightening their fellow citizens, or will homophobic attitudes prevail? Will the international community take notice and call out anti-gay efforts in Kenya? How will the American Religious Right react to these developments? Kenya is the latest example of homophobia's global reach, as well as the need for global LGBTQ activism.
* Because I struggled with the speakers' accents, and because of the poor audio quality of the video, some parts of the panel discussion were inaudible.