Picture 21st Century Kenya as a country where same sex marriages are legal. A man falls head over heels and marries a “bearded sister.”
As time goes by, the couple takes to the children’s department over that small matter of adopting a future voterk.
The child duly goes to school where the couple dutifully attend visiting and Parent’s Days. One is daddy, the other the “male mother.”
Now imagine the child filling forms with spaces for “Father’s and Mother’s” names. Picture too, trying to introduce them in a social gathering.
This is not far-fetched.
The Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) recently launched a report recommending the decriminalisation of homosexuality, prostitution and same sex marriages.
The report on safeguarding sexual and reproductive health rights was a result of a public inquiry set to examine the “extent and nature of how the two rights have been violated.”
The report also argued that “sexual minorities” were fast increasing and their rights needed to be respected.
A section of the clergy has denounced the report as going “against the spirit of the Constitution and the teaching of all the faith communities in Kenya.”
That US President Barack Obama recently supported same sex marriages during an interview on ABC television’s The View programme, fuelled debate on what is gradually becoming a human rights, and not a religious, cultural or moral conundrum.
Opponents of the report stressed that Kenya should not be arm-twisted into accepting alien immorality by foreign governments even as gay rights are gradually attached as conditions for foreign aid to developing, but socially conservative countries.
President Obama — whose government gave $3 million (Sh240 million) to finance gay-rights organisations to combat discrimination, violence and other abuses last year — added that his administration will use “all tools of American diplomacy” to promote gay rights around the world, piping that “The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights.”
Obama has now been branded by Newsweek as “America’s first gay President” considering that under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, marriage in America is defined as only between a man and a woman.
During the 2011 Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting in Australia, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK would withhold general budget support for countries that didn’t reform legislation banning homosexuality.
Under the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi, which was deemed to have a “slow progress” record regarding media freedom, human and gay rights, had its £19 million (Sh2.6 billion) budget support suspended.
The Catholic Church of Scotland termed Cameron’s pro-gay campaign as “complete madness”.
The contested legalisation of gay rights has sparked debate in many African countries with homo-unfriendly laws. Most communities in the continent did not, and still don’t have local names for gays and lesbians.
Things have been harsh.
Uganda, where Cameron was accused of having “ex-colonial mentality” had the 2009 anti-homosexuality bill proposing that gays be executed. President Obama called the bill “odious.”
Just last year, Ugandan gay rights campaigner, David Kato was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in a suspected gay-hate crime.
In Nigeria’s Muslim north, homosexuals can be stoned to death, as same sex marriages are illegal alongside “witnessing or aiding a same sex marriage.”
In Malawi, Steven Monjeza, now 28, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, now 22, were jailed for 14 years for “gross indecency and unnatural acts” after celebrating their engagement in 2010.
The sentence caused international uproar. President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them on humanitarian grounds after a visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
But the couple was warned they would be re-arrested if “they continue doing that.”
In Kenya, Article 45 of the Constitution has a clause declaring that “Every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex” effectively outlawing same sex marriages.
Offenders can be jailed for terms ranging from five to 14 years.
According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitude Project, 96 per cent of Kenyans said that homosexuality “is a way of life that should not be accepted” which was the fifth-highest rate of non-acceptance in the 45 countries surveyed.
South Africa is the only African country where same-sex marriages are legal under the Civil Union Act of 2006.
But same sex spouses don’t have it easy even in liberal Western countries now trudging others up sexual tolerance street.
In America, same sex couples pay higher taxes as federal tax benefits don’t extend to such “domestic partnerships.”
Even filling federal income taxes translates to filling three sets of paper work instead of one. Same sex couples can neither claim each other’s social security benefits nor sponsor each other for citizenship in case one of them hails from Kiribati or Karatina.
The Kenyan gay couple, Daniel Chege Gichia and Charles Ng’ang’a Wacera divorced last year, two years after their wedding in North London. But same sex couples can’t split property, if they have any as they are considered single under laws in most states except California.
Some same sex couples have become parents, creating a poser on the concept of mother and father.
The phenomenally successful British singer Sir Elton John who moved from pop to papa in 2010 when his son, the mouthfully named, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, was born on Christmas Day to an anonymous surrogate mother.
Elton John, 65, lives with his civil partner of 18 years, David Furnish, the 50 year old film producer who directed the 1997 documentary, Elton John: Tantrums&Tiaras.
But it was Sir Elton’s sperm that was used. Sir Elton told ABC News broadcaster Barbara Walters in April 2011 that in future, Zachary will call him Daddy, but refer to David Furnish as Papa. So, how do they bring him up?
“We change him, we bath him, we feed him, we sing for him, and read him a story every night,” he told Walters of their routine, “and we take him to lunch.”
Sir Elton, who is worth $320 million (Sh25.6 billion) according to Forbes bought a $2 million (Sh160 million) apartment that was turned into a nursery for Zachary who has a personal chef and round-the-clock nannies.
Sir Elton and Furnish, who married in 2005 after a 12 year courtship, chose to have Zachary in California as “it’s the only place in the world where a same-sex couple using a surrogate mother can claim parenthood of the baby even while it’s still in the womb.”
The couple had tried to adopt a baby in Ukraine, but laws there prohibit same sex couples from adopting children.
The singer of Nikita and Candle in the Wind tribute song to Princess Diana, said they will instill in Zachary a good sense of values including drive and ambition as he would want for nothing but a mother.
“I’m not insane enough to say we are going to be perfect parents. We probably will make mistakes, but we will always try to do the right thing.”
Their parenthood of Zachary was condemned in the social media, but Sir Elton said he was prepared for eventualities, admitting that even their son would face “challenges” and potential “double” stigma as he grew up.
The couple has thus engaged counsellors to advise on the best way of dealing with potential problems, like Zachary asking questions of how he was born and the inevitable “who is my mum?” Sir Elton and Furnish have created a scrapbook to explain his “creation” and birth when he becomes an adult.
The dynamism of society is such that, over time, there is a blurred line of what was once normal or taboo: women can now vote, own property, become bishops.
It is okay for pastors to sport dreadlocks that were once the preserve of pot-puffing Rastafarians. And excess application of a Volkswagen fan belt on your four-year old can see officers from the children’s department and a non-smiling police officer knocking on your door.
Society changes, but is the whole sexual tolerance campaign really about human rights?
Peter Karanja, the secretary general of the National Council of Churches of Kenya said after the KNHRC report that the whole issue “is against African beliefs and more so our Christian principles”; that the matter deserves “reflective discussion by our society in recognition of our values and beliefs.”
The Catholic Church of Scotland in a statement to the Telegraph noted that, “This proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole society at the behest of a small minority of activists.”
According to the National Aids/STD Control Programme (NASCOP) 2011 research, about 15 per cent of new HIV infections are attributed to gays who, “we can make much noise about, but we cannot ignore,” NASCOP director Nicholas Muraguri said at the time.
So, what are the future implications of same sex marriages, besides that tortuous matter of introducing the “male wife”?
Well, same sex marriages will redefine marriage as we know it. Procreation will take a back seat, and deliberately deprive children of either mother or father.
Indeed, children raised by same sex partners will be deprived of the proven, best environment of an upbringing — that of a mother and father.
Actually, adopted children will grow in motherless and fatherless homes. It will be criminal and part of “hate speech” to speak out against homosexuality, including quoting Bible chapters that say as much.
If marriage will not be about a man and a woman, then it will be possible for three men or two women and five men to claim they’re “domestic partners.” Or even a colony of gays.
Sex education and social studies in academic institutions will include a chapter or so on same sex partners, indoctrinating the young via the curriculum.
Consequences include experimentation of what they have learnt. Health insurance will have to include same sex couples and studies have shown their medical costs are normally higher due to their lifestyles.
Then there is the question of stationery. Passports, birth, marriage and death certificates and the bulk of official documents will have to be redesigned to include “civil partners.” Not the usual Mr and Mrs.
Where they recognise ‘civil unions’
Australia recognises same sex marriages, but only if one partner has a sex change. But it’s no big deal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, South Africa, the Brazilian state of Alagoas and some States in America.
If you marry elsewhere, Israel and all states of Mexico will recognise your union. The gradual increase in countries tolerant to same sex couples is the result of legislative changes in marriage laws and constitutional guarantees of equality. Or both.
In Kenya, traditional same sex marriages among women from Kikuyu, Kamba, Kisii and Nandi communities are legal under customary law.
In a landmark ruling last year, Justice J.B. Ojwang (now with the Supreme Court) ruled that Monica Jesang Katam could inherit the property of Cherotich Kimong’ony Kibseria, who had married and paid dowry for Monica under Nandi customary law.
Such woman-to-woman marriages, unlike today’s same sex relationships, are not sexual. They and are common among widows and barren women who marry other women to bear them children.