Gay Prayer in Uhuru Park, or Christianity and LGBT Empowerment in Kenya

From the University of Chicago Divinity School:

While doing preliminary research for a project on religion, homosexuality and LGBT rights in Kenya, July-August 2015, I discovered a different side of the gay debate in Africa—one that so far has received very little attention. Where religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is often presented as a key force fueling homophobia and legitimizing anti-LGBT attitudes and politics, I found it also to be employed as a counter-force.

When President Obama visited Kenya in July of last year, there was excitement and controversy. People were excited because he was the first US President to visit the country, and also because Obama – whose father was Kenyan – could be welcomed as a ‘son of Africa’ returning home. At the same time, controversy emerged about Obama coming to ‘preach gay rights’ since his visit occurred shortly after the US Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriage.

In Kenya, the colonial anti-sodomy laws are still in place, and not one political party advocates abolishing them. Yet one marginal Kenyan political party, the Republican Liberty Party, seized the Obama visit as an opportunity to profile themselves.

Party operatives made global headlines by announcing a mass nude protest in Uhuru Park in Nairobi so that Obama could see and understand the physiological differences between the two genders.

I went to Uhuru Park the morning scheduled for the protest. However, there weren’t any protesters. The Republican Liberty Party had already reached its aim: it had received media attention, and at his joint press conference with Obama, Kenyan President Kenyatta had to openly dissociate himself from his American counterpart and declare publicly that Kenya wasn’t ready for gay rights.

Instead of nude protesters, I encountered a small group of gay, Christian men meeting in the park—not to cruise for sex—but to pray for each other and to support each other in their entrepreneurial activities, for which they had set up a system of savings and loans.

Source:The University of Chicago Divinity School

First openly gay politician seeks seat in Kenya’s new senate

Homophobia is rampant in Kenya. Despite the challenging environment, an openly gay man is running for a seat in the new Senate established by the nation’s 2010 constitution. 

Politician David Kuria Mbote once took an elevator in a Nairobi building alone after a group of people he had been waiting with recognized him as a gay rights activist.

“I entered the lift without thinking then realized no one wanted to join me,” he says. “Most of the people in the group were human rights activists going to the same conference I was attending. I couldn’t help but marvel at their hypocrisy.”

The 38-year-old man says he has faced this kind of discriminaton regularly for being openly gay in the largely homophobic Kenyan society. But he has learned to brush such incidents aside. He says he doesn’t mind when men avoid talking to him in public for fear that people may think they are gay.

Save for some tiny gray patches of hair, Mbote looks much younger than his age. He could easily pass for a man in his 20s with his slight build and easygoing nature. But it is his determination that dumbfounds both his friends and foes.

He comes from Kiambu, a county bordering Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. His conservative community considers him an outcast because of his sexuality and gay rights activism, which he has done for 10 years.

But Mbote now hangs up the boots of gay rights activism to seek political office. He is running to be his county’s senator in the country’s newly established Senate. He believes he will win the seat, bigotry in his community notwithstanding.

Mbote says he aims to change the game of politics – campaigning with social media and committing himself to good governance in order to effect positive social change. If elected, he says his main priority would be creating laws to fight HIV. But he has a challenging campaign ahead, as many people here reject homosexuality on the basis of religion. Voters are giving a mixed response on whether they would vote for a gay politician.

– full report at

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Nairobi’s gay rights revolution

ONE BUS RIDE AND I HAD LEFT BEHIND the crowded streets of downtown Nairobi, arriving on the outskirts of the city. The omnipresent buzz and whine of traffic was gone, replaced by the call of birds and the occasional whoosh of a passing car.

I leaned up against a cement building painted neon green and pink, advertising mobile phone providers and laundry detergent. It sprang up from the surrounding dusty landscape littered with acacia trees. A young Kenyan man walked toward me wearing a t-shirt with an orange hoodie over it and jeans that were slightly flared and torn at the knee.

“Gabriel?” I said. The man smiled and stuck out his hand.

Gabriel and I walked to a building across the street and entered a cavernous, unlit room. The walls were stark and cement; the only furnishings were a desk, two chairs, and a banner that read Other Sheep Kenya. I introduced myself to the slim man slouched in one of the chairs in the corner of the room. He looked hesitant, but after I gave my name he was quick to smile and tell me that his name was Peter.

It had taken Gabriel a moment to close and padlock the iron grill placed over the front door, and after finishing he hurried over to us. He repeated the introduction. “This is Peter, my boyfriend.”

Something flashed across Peter’s face; I couldn’t tell exactly what it was. He stole a glance in my direction, trying to read my face, as I tried to read his.

* * *

Gabriel and Peter were staying at a safe house provided by Other Sheep Kenya, one of a growing number of organizations in Kenya working to further gay rights.

Gabriel grew up in Nairobi and has known as long as he can remember that he was gay. Living in the capital city gave him access to gay rights organizations, and he has been involved in activism since he was a teenager. Peter, meanwhile, comes from outside of Kajiado, a rural area in southern Kenya, and he didn’t know that gay rights organizations existed until his recent move to Nairobi.

Over the course of a decade, the fight for gay rights and the presence of gay culture have become visible in Nairobi at a speed perhaps incomparable to anywhere else in the world. Only 15 years ago, no Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) organizations operated openly in Kenya. Accordingly, gay rights were seldom discussed publicly or privately.

– more at Matador Network.

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