Kenyatta: 'Gay rights is a non-issue for Kenya'

With US only recently ruling in favour of gay marriage in the US, the question about gay rights in Kenya and in Africa as a whole was bound to crop up. And when it did, Barack Obama and Uhuru Kenyatta's answers couldn't have been further apart.

  1. In a press conference addressing a wide range of issues - from joint operations fighting the armed group al-Shabab to the need to end corruption - it was the discussion over gay rights that got everyone talking. US President Barack Obama was categorical in his condemnation of discriminatory practices against gay and lesbian people. He "nudged" Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to treat the issue as a universal human right, comparable to the fight against racism or sexism.
  2. VIDEO: Presidents Obama & Kenyatta's responses to gay & lesbians question
  3. Barack Obama: "I've been consistent all across Africa on this. When you start treating people differently,because they're different, that's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen".

  4. As it stands, South Africa is the only country on the continent to have legalised gay marriage. Most African countries have made it illegal to be gay or lesbian. For instance, neighbouring Uganda is known for its repeated attempts to strengthen prison laws against gays. When Kenyatta responded, he offered a popular response to the question of gay rights on the continent: he said it was a question of priorities.
  5. Uhuru Kenyatta: "There are some things that we must admit we don't share. It's very difficult for us to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept. This is why I say for Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue"

  6. Whereas Obama and Kenyatta appeared to be in agreement over issues concerning security, corruption and Kenya's development, the topic of gay and lesbian rights was seemingly irreconcilable.
  7. It also quickly became the defining feature of the day's play.
  8. Kenyatta's decisive reply on gay rights, brought with it a volley of support. Many users on social media defended Kenyatta, arguing he was standing up for Africa and against evil.
  9. Others were thrilled Obama had raised the topic in such a sensitive environment. Eric Gitari, who heads a Kenyan gay-rights group, told Reuters he was pleased Obama had tackled the matter on the basis of "the dignity of people by speaking about simple human to human interactions".
  10. There was a lot of talk before Obama's visit about the issues and topics the US president would explore with his counterpart. He was reportedly warned not to bring up the "gay rights issue".
  11. But perspective, as they say, is a great leveller. Many African nations have abysmal records when it comes to the rights of gays and lesbians. The US, it would appear, is no stranger to opposition to gay rights either.
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