For a long time now, Kenyan religious organisations have used a significant amount of their time demonising and ostracising homosexuals.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Raila Odinga joined the fray with a particularly vitriolic outburst against male and female youth who ‘‘ignore members of the opposite sex and choose same-sex partners for relationships’’.
The Prime Minister even went as far as suggesting that these people must have a mental illness to behave like this!
It is not clear if this was meant as an insult to the mentally ill or to the homosexuals, but it must be stated unequivocally that the PM’s choice of words (or even topic) was completely inappropriate.
Firstly, people with mental illness deserve to be treated with dignity and respect like other citizens.
They also have varied sexual preferences, and identifying them with Kenyans of any one sexual orientation is wrong and insulting, not least when it comes from one of the principals of our government.
Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently, homosexuality is not recognised as a mental illness in any system of classification of mental disorders known to mental health workers.
It is a sexual orientation, and health workers do not busy themselves trying to unravel their clients’ private sexual behaviours unless they cause some sort of distress or dysfunction.
Homosexuals, therefore, do not need treatment for their sexual orientation, but for the same problems that afflict all human beings.
The only time their sexual orientation becomes a subject of concern in a therapeutic environment would be when they have problems with their sexuality.
In such a case, the role of a therapist is to help them practise their sexuality in a way that is safe and gratifying to them and their chosen, consenting partners.
Another point that needs to be made is that many scientists now believe that sexual orientation, including homosexuality, is at least partly genetically determined.
As research gradually moves in this direction, it may eventually turn out that the most virulent critics of homosexuality are actually the greatest promoters of its spread.
By encouraging homosexuals to engage in liaisons with members of the opposite sex, the gene that supports the development of this behaviour continues to be forcefully propagated, and homosexuality continues to thrive as a result.
Additionally, it is generally accepted that behaviour and personality are often shaped by the home environment and upbringing, and people increasingly tend to adopt the behaviour they have observed in their same-sex parent.
Homosexual parents are, therefore, more likely to have, and pass on to their biological offspring, a largely liberal attitude towards sexuality and the concept of morality!
By opposing homosexual relationships and literally railroading homosexuals to conceive and raise children with opposite-sex partners, our clerics and political leaders, including the PM, appear to be the foremost supporters of the spread of homosexuality.
Finally, all those involved in this homo-bashing should know that the Constitution of Kenya outlaws discrimination on most grounds, and further discourages hate speech and expression of hatred that constitutes, among other things, ‘‘vilification of others or incitement to cause harm’’.
Having chosen the path of civilisation and dignity with the passage of the new Constitution, we must not unnecessarily delay the realisation of its dreams through prejudicial rhetoric, even if it is politically expedient.
Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University School of Medicine. www.lukoyeatwoli.com