Gays say draft law ignored them

Friday November 20 2009

By Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

Not long after the uproar over the marriage of a Kenyan gay couple in London, the gay community in Kenya is coming out of the closet and agitating for rights they feel are ignored by the draft constitution.

Spokespersons for the secretive and tightly-knit community say the draft promoted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Rev Michael Kimindu, who runs a church for gay people in Nairobi, accused the Committee of Experts of lacking “expertise in courage”.

Shoot down draft

He says gay rights should have been included in the draft for discussion by Kenyans.

During the furore over the London wedding, one of the experts Otiende Amollo disclosed that the committee had rejected suggestions by British MPs to recognise and protect the rights of homosexuals in the draft.

“If we did so, a majority of Kenyans would reject the draft during the forthcoming referendum,” he said.

But Rev Kimindu, a retired army major, reckons that Kenyans who are likely to shoot down the draft over the matter were relatives of the gays and lesbians. He describes the committee’s decision as “homophobic”.

According to Mr David Kuria, the coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, homosexuals should have been “expressly listed” among the minority and marginalised groups deserving of special protection.

He told the Saturday Nation on Friday that the experts should also have indicated that no Kenyan should be discriminated because of his or her sexual orientation.

The present constitution is silent on the issue, but the draft is clear that the right to marriage is only in respect of couples of opposite gender.

“We are not interested in same sex-marriages,” Mr Kuria said. “We only want to be allowed to access medical care, education and jobs without discrimination.”

Rev Kimindu, an ordained Anglican priest, is the head of the Other Sheep – East Africa, a worldwide Christian organisation dedicated to empowering gays and lesbians.

The gay population, according to Rev Kimindu, is the “other sheep” that Jesus, a shepherd, was searching for in the book of John (Chapter 10:16). Kimindu, 57, is also the head of the local branch of the Metropolitan Community Church which was founded by gay Christians.

Because of his links with the gay movement, his attachment at St Luke’s Church Kenyatta, which is run by the All Saints Cathedral was “stopped” last year. Mr Kimindu describes his church in Nairobi’s Imara Daima estate as a sanctuary for lesbian and gay Kenyans.

Kimindu who retired from the military in 2007, boasts of 22-member flock. It is a unique fellowship of university students, middle-level professionals and clergy all aged between 23 and 40.

Though he works with the gay community, Mr Kimindu says he is heterosexual.