Home » How an LGBTQ Court Ruling Sent Kenya Into a Moral Panic
Africa Featured Kenya News

How an LGBTQ Court Ruling Sent Kenya Into a Moral Panic


Kenya is in the throes of a full-blown existential moral panic. If the country’s politicians, clergy, self-anointed defenders of “traditional culture” and media are to be believed, the long-dreaded gay zombie apocalypse is upon us, bringing hordes of insatiable homosexuals hungry for our children’s impressionable brains.

A February ruling by the Supreme Court that the constitution barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has sparked weeks of hysterical breast-beating across the country, with many fearful that it could open Pandora’s closet and precipitate the end of civilisation as we know it.

Egged on by news anchors and editors keen to serve up drama and gore in an effort to retain audiences, everyone from President William Ruto to political pundits has been lining up to condemn the court for upholding verdicts by lower courts that the government could not lawfully refuse to register an organisation calling itself the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC).

The jeremiads dominating the airwaves and social media proclaim this as the beginning of the end.

In an interview with one of the most-watched local TV stations, Citizen TV, Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit of the Anglican Church of Kenya speculated – to approving noises from the anchors – that this was a sinister ploy by environmentalists to depopulate the globe in an effort to address climate change. The Ministry of Education has also announced that it is deploying chaplains to schools to prevent “infiltration” by the nefarious Western-backed LGBTQ brigade.

Meanwhile, during a parliamentary session, MP Joshua Kimilu condemned the decision of the court as violating Kenyan law and warned that Kenyan culture can “be ruined by the West”.

At the heart of the national hatefest is the increasing visibility and assertiveness of the country’s sexual minorities. Long suppressed by colonial-era edicts that criminalised sex “against the order of nature” and Western ideas about “African culture” that engendered vicious homophobia, in recent decades, queer Kenyans have been pushing back, refusing to be forced back into the national closet.

This has included a push to have the British-imposed local versions of the 19th-century Indian Penal Code outlawing sexual acts “against the order of nature” – colonial code for homosexuality – struck out as contrary to Kenya’s 2010 constitution, the country’s first supreme law to be wholly drafted, negotiated and adopted by Kenyans.

The registration of the NGLHRC was one of two cases concerning LGBTQ rights that have been making their way through the courts. The reaction to the February ruling may actually be an effort to influence the second case, which more directly challenges the constitutionality of the sections of the penal code banning sex “against the order of nature”.

It is important to note, as upheld by both the High Court and the Supreme Court, and contrary to the assertions of some, that the arcane text of these laws does not actually criminalise homosexuality or homosexual relationships or even homosexual orientation.

Rather it sanctions certain undisclosed sexual acts deemed to be “against the order of nature” regardless of the sexual orientation of the person committing them. Under the same laws, for example, heterosexual couples could be conceivably prosecuted for practising oral or anal sex. However, the laws are almost exclusively used to target gay people.

In May 2019, a high court upheld the laws in a convoluted judgement in which judges equated sex to marriage. They insisted that the constitution’s definition of marriage as a union between people of the opposite sex required the criminalisation of same-sex relationships while arguing that the laws did not specifically target LGBTQ people but people in general and therefore are not discriminatory.

The case is at the Court of Appeal, and all indications are that it will end up at the Supreme Court. Thus, the reaction to the NGLHRC verdict can be seen as an attempt to intimidate the judges, to pressure them into maintaining the status quo.

Interestingly, the February ruling by the Supreme Court only echoes what the country’s attorney general argued openly in court in 2017. While defending the constitutionality of the colonial sex laws, he nonetheless admitted that the “Constitution protects individuals against all forms of discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation”.

The loud demands for the reversal of the Supreme Court judgement also ignore its role as the ultimate arbiter over what the constitution says. In fact, many of the same voices have been calling on the opposition to accept another declaration by the Supreme Court: that the president was validly elected in 2022.

In that instance, they are happy to insist that the decision of the court, and its interpretation of what the constitution requires, is final. However, when it comes to addressing the threat posed by “gayism” to the “African values” taught to us by Victorian colonialists, both sides of the political divide are united in rejecting the Supreme Court’s prerogatives.

So what comes next? Even prior to the ruling, MP Peter Kaluma had declared his intention to introduce a law explicitly criminalising homosexuality with penalties, including life imprisonment. He remains undeterred by the court’s upholding of the constitution’s prohibition on discrimination.

Like the young Roper in Robert Bolt’s two-act play, A Man For All Seasons, it seems the Kenyan elite are happy to “cut a great road through the law to get after the [gay] Devil”. Churches are already proposing that Parliament enact laws further limiting Kenyans’ freedom of association, singling out groups that promote illegal practices.

Clearly, the churchmen are happy to drag the country back to the days when Kenya’s government could criminalise stuff like dissent and then lock up people who dared to come together to challenge it. They would do well to consider the question Thomas More asked Roper: “This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

The irony of using colonial laws to defend “African culture” against the spectre of corruption by whites is evidently lost on the anti-gay brigade, who mistakenly insist that LGBTQ rights are a uniquely Western invention. Yet manufactured panics about European threats to African sexuality are nothing new – they were invented by the whites themselves.

In her PhD thesis, gender studies scholar Elizabeth Williams argues that “in order to maintain their political dominance in the colony, Kenyan settlers needed to find a way to present white supremacy as a boon to African welfare. The solution to this problem lay in the production of a vision of African sexuality that needed to be protected from contamination by more deviant settler populations.”

That vision of African sexuality was born of Victorian imaginings of noble savagery. “The average native is simply an unmoral creature, and as a general rule, he becomes immoral only after contact with certain forms of civilization, either Eastern or Western,” one settler wrote in 1920.

Today’s African elites, who inherited the colonial kingdom, are replicating the same naked assertion of power. They too declare themselves, and their thievery and brutality, as justified by the need to protect “African” mores from Western decadence.

Still, while it may be tempting to dismiss these as the rantings of ignorant and power-hungry bigots, which they are, we must not forget that they have real-life consequences.

They provide justification for the oppression of thousands of Kenyans who find themselves the victims of violence, rape and imprisonment at the hands of the state and local communities. Between 2013 and 2017, more than 500 people were prosecuted under colonial laws and artistic works have been banned for showing homosexual relationships.

We must also keep in mind that by undermining the protections in the constitution, the self-appointed defenders of “African culture” are endangering all of us, regardless of sexual orientation.

Source : Al Jazeera

Instagram

Instagram has returned empty data. Please authorize your Instagram account in the plugin settings .

Advertisement

Advertisement Small

Flickr

  • Public pier
  • Public pier
  • Public pier
  • William Kentridge (anticipated 2025)
  • Coco's
  • William Kentridge
  • Sport
  • Warning Flags
  • L'ancre

ThemeForest

Collaboratively harness market-driven processes whereas resource-leveling internal or "organic" sources. Competently formulate.

Calendar

April 2024
M T W T F S S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

RSS Meks Blog

  • 10 Best Knowledge Base & Wiki WordPress Themes 2021 September 15, 2021
    Running a successful online business requires an exceptional WordPress knowledge base theme that organizes documentation and helps customers. Customization options, intuitive navigation, unique layouts, and fast responsiveness are just some of the features you need. The following 10 WordPress wiki themes represent the best options for 2021 and beyond. Explore the full range to determine […]
    Dusan Milovanovic
  • How to increase WordPress Memory Limit (quick fixes) June 16, 2021
    Here is a post about how to increase the memory limit in WordPress. Allowed memory size exhausted error message showed up in your WordPress installation? No worries – this is one of the most common errors in WordPress. You can apply an easy fix by increasing the memory limit in your PHP. Table of Contents […]
    Dusan Milovanovic
  • How to use (and why) WordPress sitemap plugin March 1, 2021
    Did you know that by knowing how to use the WordPress sitemap plugin you can significantly improve your site’s visibility and traffic? Although it isn’t mandatory to have a sitemap on your site, having one significantly improves the site’s quality, crawlability and indexing. All this is important for better optimization, which is why we wanted […]
    Ivana Cirkovic
  • 22 free and premium podcast software for your show [2021 edition] January 18, 2021
    You’re determined to start or improve your podcast but don’t know which podcast software to use to really make it stand out? We’ve got you! #podcasting Top 22 free and premium podcast software for your show #WordPressTips #podcasting The post 22 free and premium podcast software for your show [2021 edition] appeared first on Meks.
    Ivana Cirkovic
  • Digital storytelling with WordPress – an all-in-one guide to make your web stories pop! November 23, 2020
    Wondering how to improve digital storytelling with WordPress and build more awareness and exposure of your business? Let our guide lead the way. The post Digital storytelling with WordPress – an all-in-one guide to make your web stories pop! appeared first on Meks.
    Ivana Cirkovic
  • How to use WordPress autoposting plugin to improve your visibility and SEO? September 10, 2020
    Did you know you can use the WordPress autoposting plugin for your content efforts and improve not only your time management but your business and visibility as well? The post How to use WordPress autoposting plugin to improve your visibility and SEO? appeared first on Meks.
    Ivana Cirkovic
  • How to create a personal branding site? Step-by-step DIY guide August 15, 2020
    Looking for ways and means to create a personal branding site? Well, look no further ’cause we’re giving away all the how-to’s to do it yourselves! The post How to create a personal branding site? Step-by-step DIY guide appeared first on Meks.
    Ivana Cirkovic
  • Top 15 WordPress content plugins and tools to improve your visibility and rankings July 16, 2020
    Let’s take a look at some of the must-have WordPress content plugins and tools to use to improve both your UX and rankings. The post Top 15 WordPress content plugins and tools to improve your visibility and rankings appeared first on Meks.
    Ivana Cirkovic
  • WCEU 2020 recap – key takeaways from the biggest online WordPress conference June 9, 2020
    Missed WCEU 2020 and all the exciting stuff from there? Here are all the key takeaways and main points to remember so, take notes! The post WCEU 2020 recap – key takeaways from the biggest online WordPress conference appeared first on Meks.
    Ivana Cirkovic
  • How to change the WordPress username? An easy step-by-step guide May 14, 2020
    Wondering how can you change WordPress username once you set up your blog or site? Read all about it in our helpful guide! The post How to change the WordPress username? An easy step-by-step guide appeared first on Meks.
    Ivana Cirkovic

Text

Distinctively utilize long-term high-impact total linkage whereas high-payoff experiences. Appropriately communicate 24/365.