Repression of LGBTI people in Kenya and Guinea has come under fire from abroad as part of the past year’s United Nations review of countries’ human rights records.
U.S. President Barack Obama, currently visiting the East African nation of Kenya, is not the only defender of human rights for LGBTI people who is displeased with Kenya’s record on LGBTI rights. During January’s examination of human rights in Kenya, six countries challenged Kenya to improve its treatment of sexual minorities.
The reviews of human rights in Kenya and Guinea were among dozens of similar reviews of countries in the U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, which scrutinizes each country’s human rights record every four years.
Excerpts below focus on to human rights for LGBTI people in those two of the 34 African countries with anti-LGBTI laws. They were compiled from the 21st UPR session by the U.N. Human Rights Council:
Under Kenya’s penal code, consensual sex between adults of the same sex is punishable by five to 14 years in prison.
Kenyan officials say that law is not enforced and that no LGBTI people have been jailed because of their sexuality.
Recommendations to Kenya
During this year’s UPR hearing in Geneva, Kenya was urged to:
- Repeal legal provisions that foresee penalties against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons, in order to respect the principle of non-discrimination (France);
- Decriminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex (Slovenia);
- Decriminalize consenting relationships between adults of the same sex and adopt measures against violence and hate speech against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex persons and associations (Chile);
- Decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct between adults (Denmark);
- Decriminalize sexual relation between consenting adults of the same sex (Poland).
The delegation from the Czech Republic challenged Kenya with this question:
How does Kenya prevent violence, hate speech and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity? Does the government promote public dialogue and awareness-raising in these areas with a view to allowing future revision of relevant laws so that they comply with the principle of non-discrimination?
Sweden urged Kenya to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law affording protection to all individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Kenyan delegation accepted that recommendation, but such legislation has not yet been passed.
In recent months, Kenyan officials have given a boost to some Kenyans’ anti-gay sentiments.
The government has appealed April’s High Court ruling that the government could no longer refuse recognition to a law-abiding organization just because it advocates human rights for LGBTI people.
In May, Deputy President William Ruto told a church congregation that in Kenya “we have no room for gays and those others.”
Action Canada / Sexual Right Initiative stated as part of the UPR process:
“While we applaud Kenya for accepting a recommendation to “adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law affording protection to all individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” we are deeply concerned that, while accepting this recommendation, Kenya has contradicted itself by rejecting a number of recommendations in regard to the decriminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, by rejecting a recommendation to adopt measures against violence and hate speech against persons and associations of LGBTI, and rejecting a recommendation to repeal legal provisions which can impose penalties against LGBT persons.
“Such contradictory responses beg the question, of how effective this comprehensive anti-discrimination law will be in protecting LGBTI individuals from discrimination. Clearly, the universality of human rights in Kenya only applies to certain individuals that the state approves of. And while this contradiction should be opposed, it should be noted that Kenya’s recently reviewed Constitution states that it recognizes the ‘aspirations of all Kenyans for a government based on the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice and the rule of law.’ ”
UPR response from Kenya
Kenya reported that it had come through a long period of national dialogue on the new Constitution. Critical social issues had been put to the various forums in which the Constitution was negotiated. The issues included abortion, death penalty and sexual identity, and particularly the use of criminal law in such cases. The issues had been divisive and the requisite political and social consensus on them was a work-in-progress. In the meantime, Kenya had not carried out any execution since 1987.
On the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons, Kenya stated that no individual could confirm that criminal law had been applied to them on the basis of his/her sexual orientation. It also stated that the judiciary had intervened in progressive ways, such as directing the Government to recognize the right of those who wanted to change their sexual identify in Governmental documents.
Guinea ignores calls to change its anti-gay law
The West African nation of Guinea has a law, part of its Penal Code of 1998, that provides for six months to three years in prison for “any indecent act or act against nature” between two individuals of the same sex.
UPR recomendations to Guinea
Italy recommended: Decriminalize all homosexual activities and not to adopt any discriminatory measures against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Argentina recommended: Ensure to LGBTI persons the full enjoyment and equal treatment of their human rights by repealing norms that criminalize and stigmatize them.
Amnesty International added, “we wish to express regret at the reluctance by Guinea to accept recommendations to abolish the death penalty and to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activities. We encourage the authorities to continue to work towards abolishing the death penalty and repealing homophobic laws, including through the ongoing revision of the penal code.”
[Apparently Guinea ignored all the UPR suggestions related to LGBTI rights.]
For more information, read:
- The statement of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights “Combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
- The High Commissioner’s report to the Human Rights Council on discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (May 2015) (Summary or full report)
- An analysis by ARC International of recent proceedings at the Human Rights Council titled “Denying the Rights of persons based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status is challenging the universality of human rights”
- Excerpts of outcomes of the 21th UPR session compiled by the U.N. Committee on Conferences.
- Anti-gay Kenyans fear upcoming Obama visit (76crimes.com)
- Kenya buzzing with anti-gay worries as it awaits Obama’s visit (76crimes.com)
- Rights Groups Urge US to Pressure Kenya on Human Rights (voanews.com)
- U.N. help needed as Kenyans threaten Ugandan refugees (76crimes.com)
- Obama rejects calls to avoid issue of homosexuality on Kenya trip | Last Days News4Christians (gyggrey.wordpress.com)
- Kenyan Police detain Ugandan Refugees Victims of Anti-Gay Mob Attack (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
- This blog’s archive of articles about Kenya
- This blog’s tiny archive of articles about Guinea