Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reconsider the Proposed 'Census of Gay People'

Apparently Kenya is going to carry out a census of its gay population. People are expected to volunteer information about their own sexuality and the sexuality of others they believe to be gay. I certainly wouldn't volunteer information about my sexuality or that of others in Kenya. The issue of homosexuality is often met with a tight-lipped silence or a rabid stream of abuse.

The National Aids/STI Control Programme (NASCOP), which intends carrying out the census, claims that it is part of an effort to 'reach out' to the gay community. This may be so, but who will protect people's right to privacy when it comes to their sexuality? Will the police protect gay people or people suspected of being gay from persecution? This seems unlikely, given the police's reputation for being behind many kinds of persecution themselves. Police here are not known for their liberal views or even their love of peace and the rule of law.

All sexually active people should have access to HIV and other sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing facilities, condoms, sexual health education, counselling and other services. But they should also have the protection of the law and this is something that is not presently guaranteed. The way commercial sex workers (CSW), and those suspected of being CSWs or accused of being CSWs, are treated is a case in point.

NASCOP is worried that some people have the mistaken view that gay sex is safer than heterosexual sex, despite the fact that it is far more risky. But heterosexual anal sex is also mistakenly thought to be safer than vaginal sex. All sexually active people, and those who will soon become sexually active, need to know things like this. Men who have sex (MSM) with men may need additional services that other sexually active groups don't need. But groups who are at higher risk of contracting HIV and other STIs, such as MSM, CSWs and intravenous drug users, are all doing something currently against the law or considered to be against the law.

If the very act of trying to bring HIV and related services to gay people is also going to expose them to even greater dangers than they currently face, the whole idea of a 'census of gay people' should be reconsidered. It could be replaced by the provision of services to all people who require them, as and when. It may seem helpful to NASCOP to approach the gay population this way but there are too many flaws in getting people to identify themselves and others as gay in Kenya.



GayTeen said...

I find ur in favour of your argument. ..i do not think that we as gay men and msm's should take part in a census that would very well risk our own lives..and what shud b said about kenyan gay teens..shud we face humiliation shud we get outted to our parents and relatives without our consent?..y are kenyans so naive and in that act so dumb and oblivious of the truth that gay people exist both male and female..n we are as natural as the grass is green..until then we shall have 2 cope with their utter nonsense..

Simon said...

Hi Gay Teen
Thanks for your comment. I think NASCOP may be sincere in their wish to target MSM but I don't think this is the way to do it. Allowing MSM and other vulnerable groups to help themselves without attracting negative attention would be a whole lot better and I wonder what made NASCOP settle for this particular course of action.