Statement on anti-LGBTQ+ demos in Mombasa

On Tuesday, September 12, 2023, the Supreme Court of Kenya re-affirmed its earlier decision to allow LGBTQ+ groups to register as NGOs, while dismissing a challenge to that ruling by Homa Bay Town MP Peter Opondo Kaluma. In no small measure, the Supreme Court has in its wisdom given a crucial shot in the arm towards LGBTQ+ rights and allowed an interesting perspective from which a national discourse on marginalisation will proceed. However, the journey is still a long way from the destination, as evidenced by demos this week in Mombasa against the LGBTQ+ community.

Marginalisation is a lethal socio-cultural and political tool of division and manipulation. It aims to paint other people: tribes, races, sexual orientations, and political persuasions, as “not worthy of human dignity because they are different from us”. Quite often, those who suffer marginalisation in one category may unknowingly perpetuate the marginalisation of persons in a different category, simply because they perceive themselves as superior. For instance, it is not uncommon to find persons already suffering exclusion based on tribe or political persuasion, themselves actively promoting the degradation of other groups based on sexual orientation.

The history of mankind is replete with wars, genocides, the holocaust and massacres that were carried out on a people because the perpetrators saw them as different. It all begins merely as a perception, then is infused with a level of indoctrination and proceeds towards the dehumanisation of such targeted groups, so that in the minds of perpetrators, the elimination of such groups becomes “fair game”. Above all, marginalisation thrives on the silence of the majority. If we speak out, we defeat the culture of exclusion that is a dangerous seed planted by marginalisation.

Members of the LGBQT+ community in this country pay taxes, follow the law and engage in nation-building, like all others. There is a real moral question around the philosophy that it is okay for certain demographics to pay taxes to the exchequer, but not okay for them to enjoy the same levels of services, protection and goodwill extended to all other citizens. This philosophy presupposes that the national contribution to GDP by some groups can be welcome, but not the requisite enjoyment of rights and privileges enshrined in the constitution. This is unsustainable. Luckily, the Supreme Court and the Constitution have both pronounced themselves unequivocally.

Research shows that the continued exclusion of marginalised demographics like the LGBTQ community costs the economy roughly $1.5 billion (over Ksh200 billion by current rates). We can base the conversation on the economy or around the eradication of prejudice in general. We may even go a step further and aver like our founding fathers did, that we need to embrace our diversity in order to build a stronger foundation for our nation-state. But by far the bigger conversation must always be to live and let live; let us respect each other’s choices, desires and aspirations, and acknowledge that our diversity does not make us weaker as a people and a nation.

We conclude by urging all those who mobilise towards hatred or organise demos meant to marginalise others, that hatred is very expensive, while spreading love is free.

We extend this reminder once again that the culture of hate has divided nations and left gaping wounds, while countries that have learnt to embrace their diversity thrive in every facet. Rather than demonstrate against certain sections of the population, how about we dedicate that energy to understanding those you see as “different”, while focusing more on solving the real enemies of our nation: poverty, unemployment, poor health facilities, hunger and despondency? We will find that as a people, we share the same destiny, have the same fears, experience the same national issues, and want the best for everyone. Our strength lies in these simple virtues, not in hate.

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  • Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination (INEND)
  • galck+
  • National Gay Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC)
  • Upinde Advocates for Inclusion (UAFI)
  • HAPA Kenya
  • Defenders Coalition