Sunday, October 18, 2009

Law review experts rule out rights for homosexuals

The couple Ngengi  (left) and his 'bride' Chege Gichia at their wedding reception in North Finchely, London on Saturday. Photo/GITAU wa NJENGA

The couple: Ngengi (left) and his 'bride' Chege Gichia at their wedding reception in North Finchely, London on Saturday. Photo/GITAU wa NJENGA  

By MATHIAS RINGA

As debate continues over the same-sex marriage of two Kenyan men in London, the team writing a new constitution on Sunday ruled out enshrining the rights of homosexuals. The Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review said it had rejected suggestions by British MPs to recognise and protect the rights of homosexuals in the draft.

“On several occasions some British MPs have approached us on the gay matter. They wanted us to include homosexual and lesbians’ rights in the draft. But we told them that such a thing cannot happen because if we did so, a majority of Kenyans will reject the draft during the forthcoming referendum,” said Mr Otiende Amolo, a member of the committee.

Two Kenyans living in London, Charles Ngengi (groom) and Daniel Chege Gichia, had a wedding on Saturday under the Civil Partnership Act, which recognises a union of people of the same sex. According to that law, a civil partnership is defined as a legal marriage between gay and lesbian couples, though those joined under the law are known as partners, as opposed to the traditional husband and wife.

The wedding of Mr Ngengi and Mr Gichia has outraged religious leaders here at home who described it as “unacceptable and unnatural”. Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said the union was nothing to celebrate.

“The union is abnormal. As an African and a church leader, I am ashamed. We should advice others not to do the same,” he said. Similar outrage was expressed by PCEA St Andrew’s Church moderator Patrick Mungiriria in his sermon on the family under attack.

Nominated MP and Muslim leader Sheikh Mohammed Dor described it as going against African traditions. He said the Quran, Bible and Hindu scriptures detest such unions. “It should be discouraged by all means. It is un-African and against our traditions. It’s unfortunate it is Kenyans who did it,” he said, and asked the government to take a stand on moral issues. China took a position a long time ago and “such things are not tolerated”, he said.

Sheikh Dor said if nothing is done, more will follow the example of the two men. Mr Amolo said the foreign MPs wanted Kenyan homosexuals and lesbians given the right to marry. The new constitution is supposed to cater for the interests of both the majority and minorities, he said, but same-sex marriages had been rejected by all religious groups.

“In the 5,000 memoranda we received from religious groups, they informed us that they will shoot down the draft if we include the gay rights,” he said. “The majority of Kenyans are opposed to same-sex marriages and anything to do with homosexuals and lesbians. The matter is considered unnatural in the society,” he added.

The lawyer was speaking at Sportman’s Arms Hotel in Nanyuki during a workshop attended by Kenya Correspondents Association members. The committee had organised the workshop for news correspondents to create awareness on the process of constitution-making and also to help in educating the public.

A Reuters correspondent, Noor Ali, had called on the experts to leave out the gay rights issue from the new constitution. “Gay issues are not acceptable in our society and therefore the experts should not waste time on such unnatural acts. How can a Kenyan marry another man when there are many women out there looking for men to marry them?” he posed.

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