IHRP Director quoted in news story about criminalization of gays in Kenya

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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Gays should be thrown in jail: Odinga

Written by Derek Dotto 

“If a man is caught having sex with the other we jail them, or if a girl is caught with the other... we will jaili them.” Those are the words of Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, quoted at a Nov 28 rally in Nairobi by an Associated Press story. Now many in that country’s gay community are fearing for their safety. It was reported that the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya has received calls from concerned members, some HIV-positive, who fear they will be arrested if they try to collect medicine from government clinics. Board member Nguru Karugu told the Associated Press the prime minister’s remarks are a huge blow to efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

A spokesman for Odinga said his comments were taken out of context. 

Human rights advocates in Toronto are joining the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya in condemning Odinga’s remarks. “Using criminal law to punish consensual same-sex conduct flies in the face of binding human rights obligations including universality, nondiscrimination, and the right to privacy,” says Renu Mandhane, director of the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program. Mandhane says it’s up to the international community to stand up for gay rights in Kenya and elsewhere. “Human rights organizations, states and the UN have an important role to play in terms of naming and shaming the Kenyan government for its discrimination against LGBT persons,” says Mandhane. 

Under Kenyan law, people found guilty of “sex against the order of nature” can face up to 14 years in prison. State-sanctioned punishment of gay men and lesbians isn’t exclusive to Kenya. Mandhane says individuals face criminal punishment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in 78 countries around the world. “It would be helpful,” says Mandhane, “if those who have been at the forefront of that fight [against intolerance in the West] also lent their experience and expertise to assist advocates in developing countries who face persecution for standing up for their rights.”