- Same sex marriages are now a reality, especially in the Western Hemisphere, but the world being a global village, international borders and distance are no longer barriers to cultural diffusion, which is why the matter of such marriages is already causing a storm in Kenya
Picture 21st Century Kenya as a country where same sex marriages are legal. A man falls head over heels and marries a “bearded sister.”
As time goes by, the couple takes to the children’s department over that small matter of adopting a future voterk.
The child duly goes to school where the couple dutifully attend visiting and Parent’s Days. One is daddy, the other the “male mother.”
Now imagine the child filling forms with spaces for “Father’s and Mother’s” names. Picture too, trying to introduce them in a social gathering.
This is not far-fetched.
The Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) recently launched a report recommending the decriminalisation of homosexuality, prostitution and same sex marriages.
The report on safeguarding sexual and reproductive health rights was a result of a public inquiry set to examine the “extent and nature of how the two rights have been violated.”
The report also argued that “sexual minorities” were fast increasing and their rights needed to be respected.
A section of the clergy has denounced the report as going “against the spirit of the Constitution and the teaching of all the faith communities in Kenya.”
That US President Barack Obama recently supported same sex marriages during an interview on ABC television’s The View programme, fuelled debate on what is gradually becoming a human rights, and not a religious, cultural or moral conundrum.
Opponents of the report stressed that Kenya should not be arm-twisted into accepting alien immorality by foreign governments even as gay rights are gradually attached as conditions for foreign aid to developing, but socially conservative countries.
President Obama — whose government gave $3 million (Sh240 million) to finance gay-rights organisations to combat discrimination, violence and other abuses last year — added that his administration will use “all tools of American diplomacy” to promote gay rights around the world, piping that “The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights.”
Obama has now been branded by Newsweek as “America’s first gay President” considering that under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, marriage in America is defined as only between a man and a woman.
During the 2011 Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting in Australia, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK would withhold general budget support for countries that didn’t reform legislation banning homosexuality.
Under the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi, which was deemed to have a “slow progress” record regarding media freedom, human and gay rights, had its £19 million (Sh2.6 billion) budget support suspended.
The Catholic Church of Scotland termed Cameron’s pro-gay campaign as “complete madness”.
The contested legalisation of gay rights has sparked debate in many African countries with homo-unfriendly laws. Most communities in the continent did not, and still don’t have local names for gays and lesbians.
Things have been harsh.
Uganda, where Cameron was accused of having “ex-colonial mentality” had the 2009 anti-homosexuality bill proposing that gays be executed. President Obama called the bill “odious.”
Just last year, Ugandan gay rights campaigner, David Kato was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in a suspected gay-hate crime.
In Nigeria’s Muslim north, homosexuals can be stoned to death, as same sex marriages are illegal alongside “witnessing or aiding a same sex marriage.”
In Malawi, Steven Monjeza, now 28, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, now 22, were jailed for 14 years for “gross indecency and unnatural acts” after celebrating their engagement in 2010.
The sentence caused international uproar. President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them on humanitarian grounds after a visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
But the couple was warned they would be re-arrested if “they continue doing that.”
In Kenya, Article 45 of the Constitution has a clause declaring that “Every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex” effectively outlawing same sex marriages.
Offenders can be jailed for terms ranging from five to 14 years.
According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitude Project, 96 per cent of Kenyans said that homosexuality “is a way of life that should not be accepted” which was the fifth-highest rate of non-acceptance in the 45 countries surveyed.
South Africa is the only African country where same-sex marriages are legal under the Civil Union Act of 2006.
But same sex spouses don’t have it easy even in liberal Western countries now trudging others up sexual tolerance street.
In America, same sex couples pay higher taxes as federal tax benefits don’t extend to such “domestic partnerships.”
Even filling federal income taxes translates to filling three sets of paper work instead of one. Same sex couples can neither claim each other’s social security benefits nor sponsor each other for citizenship in case one of them hails from Kiribati or Karatina.
The Kenyan gay couple, Daniel Chege Gichia and Charles Ng’ang’a Wacera divorced last year, two years after their wedding in North London. But same sex couples can’t split property, if they have any as they are considered single under laws in most states except California.