Melanie Nathan, June 22, 2012.
Kenyan activists are divided, some up in arms, over the recent announcement that the US Embassy in Nairobi will be holding a Gay Pride event, said to be the first of its kind, to bring together local LGBT activists and dignitaries to celebrate Gay Pride Month.
While on the surface this may seem noble on the part of the US several LGBTI activists have called for the boycott of the event as there is a concern about the backlash from the public that could impede the local LGBT activist work. Perhaps negotiations would be advisable, rather than calls for boycotts, so that the Embassy and activists ensure they work in unison.
Apparently one person is quoted as saying “this pride will further solidify the fact that homosexuality is a white man thing.”
One activist said that they are not assured of security and since the media will be there it may ‘out’ otherwise those who do not wish to be identified publicly as LGBT.
Others say that since the event is an invite only, it will discriminate against other LGBT Kenyans who do not get a chance to attend it.
According to a report on Identity Kenya, Several LGBT and queer list serves in Kenya and worldwide have been inundated with calls for boycott and some with support over this invitation.
Those who support the event have said it will be a good opportunity for networking and shows that the US is actively reaching out to the local LGBT community.
The number of LGBT Kenyans and personalities invited to this event is not yet known though reports indicate that directors and leaders of LGBT groups have received invitation from all regions of Kenya.
In a swift response LGBT critic and Identity Kenya magazine columnist, Queer Watchtower, has opposed the boycott saying it serves no purpose and termed them as ‘insecure.’
He said, ‘After months of disorganization and sloth in petty wrangles that have harmed the movement, some activists want to use this opportunity to spoil for a fight. Where is the security threat? Who is being forced to attend? We need to stop spreading fear and inciting insecurities where we have no credible basis and when the movement has for a long time been unstrategic.’
He clarified that the event is not for Kenyans but for Americans.
‘This pride is not for Kenyans, it is for American nationals in Kenya and their State Department, through their embassy is doing what the White House did last month; hosting a pride for its nationals who are LGBTIQ to remind them that as a government, it respects them and accords them equal rights. Same thing the Kenyan embassy in the US would do for Kenyans in Washington during Jamuhuri day.’
I have not yet checked with the US Embassy for their comment on this story.
However this report illustrates just how complicated the issue of LGBT rights and criminalization is in Africa. On the one hand the help from the West is enormously important and on the other, there is always a fine line to tread when advocating for foreign cultures.
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