Remarks attributed to Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi that Kenyans should acknowledge that homosexuality is amongst us and learn to live with it has sparked a heated debate, with pious contributions from sanctimonious religious and lay leaders alike.
I am aware that society is held together by common values and aspirations. The two are, in my view, not the same as to say that a society must, should or will have a common morality.
The reason is simple: morality is a very personal matter. Unless an action or an omission affects other people, it does not fall into the category of moral issues that should concern them.
Science has not been able to establish in any conclusive way whether sexual orientation is a matter of nature or nurture. Studies over the years have left social scientists and psychologists divided as to whether people are born gay or they become gay because of their upbringing.
Proponents of the “nature theory” argue that since sexual orientation is part of the individual’s genetic coding, it cannot be changed, “unlearnt” or resisted.
Proponents of the “nurture theory”, on the other hand, argue that since sexual orientation is influenced by the environment rather than genetics, it can be changed or “unlearnt’.
This school of thought produces statistics that show, at least in the case of men, that an abusive or absent father can contribute to a boy becoming gay.
I have not heard any arguments as to whether all the boys in a family whose circumstances fit this description usually turn gay, or whether the results are selective, perhaps assisted by personal choice.
Leaving the above theories aside, religious zealots and secular moralists have concluded, based on nothing but personal prejudices, that homosexuality is taught or acquired voluntarily. It is to this category of people that my article is directed.
First, you argue that your holy script demands that you fight the “sin” of homosexuality. I ask you: does everyone subscribe to your holy script? Why should people who do not subscribe to your religious views pay any heed to them, let alone be bound by them?
If your holy script demands that you fight sin, does it tell you to harm others or does it demand of you to fight sin within yourself? Are there other sins you are implored to fight, and about which you are as passionate in fighting, as homosexuality? Is hate not a sin?
Secondly, you argue that to allow homosexuality on the ground that it is genetic is to say that rapists, murderers and kleptomaniacs must be tolerated because they can argue that theirs too is a genetic affliction.
Really? Here lies the difference: two consenting adults of sound mind, privately and voluntarily engaged in an act that does not harm either of them, cannot be equated to acts that cause involuntary harm to others or their property.
Thirdly, you argue that homosexuals should not be tolerated because the orientation is un-African.
Besides skin colour, about which there is also no full homogeneity among Africans, there is really nothing one can call “African” about the inhabitants of Africa. There is no common culture even among Kenya’s ethnic groups, let alone Africa.
It is a documented historical fact that liaisons of a romantic nature between men have existed among a number of African tribes, including as close to home as the Buganda kingdom. It does not get more African than that. The upshot of this is that there is really nothing like “African culture”.
Fourthly, you argue that homosexuality is a threat to the family and its role in reproduction. Nothing can be further from the truth. Only very small percentages of any population is gay, and it cannot have any significant impact on population growth.
The other fact is that there is a large population of heterosexual men and women who are not, out of choice or other reasons, in marriage. Others have taken celibacy vows.
I am in no way suggesting that these groups are a threat to the family or population growth. My point is to show how shallow the argument that homosexuality is a threat to the family is.
Kenya has far much bigger issues like corruption, poverty, ignorance and disease to deal with, instead of homosexuality. It is to these issues that we should devote our attention.
Mr Mugambi is a lawyer practising in Nairobi. ([email protected])