February 1, 2012


US and UN set out their stance on gay and gender discrimination: we discuss how this shapes foreign policy in Africa.

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UN and US stance on gay and gender discrimination, impact on Africa

UN and US stance on gay and gender discrimination, impact on Africa

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks at the Service Employees International Union Political Action Conference in Washington, Monday, Sept. 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In a speech at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa on Sunday U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Africa’s leaders to respect gay rights. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also raised the subject of human rights and ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people’ (LGBT) in a high-profile speech early December.


Ban Ki-Moon declared that discrimination “based on sexual orientation of gender identity” had “prompted governments to treat people as second-class citizens or even criminals”.

The online newspaper The Huffington Post wrote that ‘Ban’s comments are considered especially groundbreaking in Africa, where homosexuality is outlawed in many countries’ and that furthermore, ‘discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people remains rampant across most of the continent’.


On December 6, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Geneva went further than Ban Ki-Moon. “Being gay”, she declared, “is not a western invention, it is human reality”.

Mrs Clinton went back to the adoption of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights on December 1948, which proclaimed “a simple, powerful idea: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, she said. The theme of her speech was that some people, LGBT’s, were still denied that right and “arrested, beaten, terrorised, even executed”. Her speech emphasised that violence against LGBT’s arises out of discrimination.

The “most challenging” issue arises, she said, “when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens”. She has a point, and made it forcefully, that religious beliefs and cultural practices were used to defend slavery, and still are when it comes to violence against women, such as female genital mutilation.


However, the Kenya Forum is uneasy and we believe so are many other Kenyans, at this point. We do not hold an entirely contrary opinion to either Ban Ki-Moon or Hillary Clinton, but when Mrs Clinton and others, in effect argue, “these are our beliefs”, she and they are also saying, “and they have precedence over your religious beliefs”.

Kenya is a country of many millions of believing and practicising religious people, Christians and Muslims. For a very great number of them (whether the Kenya Forum or Mrs Clinton agrees with them is not the point) their religious beliefs do not sanction the acceptance of homosexuality (which is not the same as wanting to commit acts of violence against homosexuals). Is it not part of their ‘human rights’ that they should be allowed to hold such views, we ask?


Then Mrs Clinton then went further. “The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy”, she declared.

She continued, “In our embassies, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protection for all” and she announced that, “in Washington we have created a task force at the State Department to support this work”, and that, “in the coming months, we will provide every embassy with a toolkit to help improve their efforts”, in support of which the US is “launching a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society organisations working on these issues around the world”.

At the time of Mrs Clinton’s Geneva speech, President Obama was also reported as having to told US officials to consider how countries treat its gay and lesbian populations when making decisions about allocating foreign aid.

That will sound good to a western liberal. It will sound like the onset of more interference in the internal matters of Kenya to many Kenyans. Hillary Clinton may not like our evangelicals but she should not be surprised if they take exception to her crusade.


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