Sunday, February 21, 2010

Homophobia is the Problem, Not Homosexuality

Rabid homophobia continues in Kenya and is being actively promoted by political and religious leaders. Police had to 'rescue' three men accused of being gay in a coastal town. When you are 'rescued' by Kenyan police, you know you are in trouble. There was also a case of two men said to be getting married being arrested by police after neighbours complained about them being 'notorious gays'. Meanwhile, a Muslim and a Christian leader are united in their opposition to their town being turned into 'Sodom and Gomorrah'.

These religious leaders feel that if gays are not persecuted, their community will be 'doomed'. This is odd, because Kenya currently faces numerous instances of massive criminal acts being carried out by the country's most powerful and wealthy people. The country is, in a sense, already doomed. At least, a lot of people's lives are doomed.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for education, HIV and internally displaced persons have been stolen, the people behind the post election violence have yet to be tried and will probably never be punished, the power sharing government is a farce, the constitution promised in the first hundred days of 2003 is as far away as ever, millions are facing starvation while donated food is being stolen by politicians and surpluses are being destroyed because of lack of storage facilities. The list goes on and on.

Facing these conditions, why are religious and political leaders so obsessed with homosexual activity? They seem to think that the practice of men having sex with men or women having sex with women is going to turn the heads of heterosexuals and make them into homosexuals too. They imagine that same sex practices are un-African and that they didn't exist before being 'imported' by colonials.

They see homosexuality as a crime but who are its victims? The victims of corrupt politicians, church leaders, police, businesspeople, both foreign and indigenous, are clear enough. Most Kenyans are victims of the excesses of the wealthy and powerful. But who are the victims of the 'crime' of homosexuality?

Of course, there are victims of rape and sexual assault. But perpetrators of sex crimes are already covered by the law. It's just that these laws are not usually upheld, especially when the crimes are carried out by the rich and powerful. The police, who are so quick to go after people who are accused of being gay, are not usually interested in ordinary everyday crime, unless they happen to be involved in it themselves.

Just why is the public so ready to become a baying mob of vigilantes when their target is a defenceless individual or group of individuals? They would achieve a lot more by objecting to the real criminals in this country but the most they do is complain about them. Not that I'm advocating mob justice, but there seems to be no sense of proportion in people's reactions to crimes.

Meanwhile, a politician in Uganda, Otto Odonga, has said he would agree to be the executioner even if the person being tried for homosexuality was his own son. Another politician there seems to think bisexuality is something that has been 'imported' into Africa. But thankfully, at the same meeting, someone else said that he had seen homosexual activity when he was young and that it was not a new thing. Like in Kenya, people in Uganda seem content to be living in one of the poorest countries in the world, made poorer by greedy leaders, as long as they can let loose their mob law against homosexuals or those thought to be homosexuals.

Interestingly, the Ugandan politician who wants to introduce draconian laws against homosexual activity, even against those who witness or know about homosexuality (or who are suspected of witnessing or knowing about it), David Bahati, thinks that everyone is susceptible to being turned into a homosexual. This means that it is possible for him or his friends, colleagues or family members to be 'made into' a homosexual, given the right influences. This seems like a very odd for a homophobe to hold.

What these Kenyan and Ugandan politicians should really be asking about is where the homophobia was imported from. Homosexuality exists in every country and always has, as far as anyone knows. You can't 'import' it. But homophobia is actively encouraged by religious groups, especially extreme right wing Christians. Several prominent American Christians and Christian groups are said to have been backing Bahati and people like him. No doubt they will support anyone who promotes their bigotry. Homophobia is the curse that Kenyans and Ugandans should be worried about, not homosexuality.



Kenyan Girl said...

Great post! Seems like communities like to have a group to blame for negative things and gay people get picked on so much. It's inhumane that violence is seen as a way to deal with this.

Simon said...

Thanks for your comment, Kenyan Girl, yes, they seem to be relatively uninterested in the billions of dollars stolen out of their pockets every year. Clear people find it easier to pick on a minority and ignore the real crimes going in Kenya.

Lindsay said...

We have a long way to go. But it begins with such talks and dialogues.

Simon said...

Hi Lindsay
Thanks for your comment, I think you are right. Here's to lots of dialogue!

OnTheRoadToSuccess said...

I came across your blog while researching an assertion that homosexuality is a main cause of HIV/AIDS in Kenya. Although I didn't find the answer on this article, I'm glad you made a good point - we should be more concerned about homophobia; not homosexuality.

Simon said...

Thanks for your comment, I've no idea where the rumour that homosexual sex drives the HIV epidemic in Kenya. It may be more widespread than people admit but I don't think it would be higher than in many other countries. Sexual transmission among heterosexuals accounts for a lot of HIV but also unsafe medical practices and perhaps cosmetic practices. But UNAIDS and other official sources don't want to admit that there is much aside from heterosexual sex!

tkep203 said...
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