Kenyan Human Rights Commission Position on Rights related to Gendery Identity and Sexual Orientation
The KHRC is concerned by ongoing expressions of prejudice about and stereotyping of Kenyans due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Prejudice and stereotyping, when not consciously addressed, feed the discrimination, harassment and violence experienced by Kenyans because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Some sections of Kenyan media, particularly uninformed radio presenters, have led this frenzy of disinformation and hate speech. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex is not ‘un-African’— Africa ’s history is replete with examples of how those of different gender identities and sexual orientations were named and addressed by various communities. Even if it were not, the fact that some Kenyans now identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex openly makes being so African.
Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is simply the sexual orientation of some Kenyans—nothing more than where some Kenyans happen to be on the continuum of human sexuality. Being transsexual or intersex is simply the gender orientation of some Kenyans—nothing more than the fact that some Kenyans find themselves at odds with the biological binary of being ‘male’ or ‘female’. Kenyans who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex continue to be, as all Kenyans are, subjects of legal protections provided by our Constitution and African and international human rights standards we are signatory too.
All Kenyans are entitled to equality under the law—and to be free from discrimination in education, in employment, in health care provision, in housing and so on. All Kenyans are entitled to security of the person—and to be free from violence. All Kenyans are entitled to privacy—and to be free from arbitrary and illegal intrusions on this privacy. Regardless of what prejudices and stereotypes persist about Kenyans who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex, these entitlements stand.
Yet some sections of the media—supported by some conservative religious organisations— continue to bombard the Kenyan public with messages implying that those entitlements exist only for some Kenyans. In declaring themselves defenders of “authentic” (though often invented) African cultural traditions, they pit “culture/African family values/morality” against human rights and attempt to subject sexuality to restrictive state control.
The KHRC strongly opposes efforts to reduce this debate to one of “culture, family values or morality.” It is a debate about human rights—freedom of expression, equality, security of the person and privacy in particular. The KHRC strongly opposes discrimination against, harassment of, violence against or prosecution and punishment of all Kenyans, including on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Kenya is at a critical moment in our construction of a democracy inclusive of diversity and based on respect for human rights. We urge all involved in drafting the new Constitution to take all the necessary measures to ensure all Kenyans full citizenship and protection from non-discrimination— by including gender identity and sexual orientation as protected grounds in the equality rights section. We urge all public service providers, the police and the judiciary to act with respect for the Constitution to protect gender and sexual minorities from discrimination, harassment and violence.
The KHRC firmly believes that dialogue is key to understanding gender identity and sexual orientation. We urge the Kenyan media to enable such dialogue while desisting from prejudicial and stereotypical hate speech. The dialogue is not about creating new human rights, but about acknowledging that all Kenyans have the same human rights, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Board of Directors
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
The KHRC works towards the observance, protection and support of all human rights for all people irrespective of sexual orientation, ethnicity, social origin, economic status, gender, political belief or because of their religious or other conscientiously held beliefs.