Writes Key Correspondent, Henry Neondo.
The fight against HIV and AIDS in Kenya will suffer irreparably following calls by the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga for the arrest of men who have sex with men in the country, members of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GLCK) have said.
Reacting to comments by the Prime Minister, David Kuria, a spokesperson for the GLCK said: “Already, the gay community is so scared and shunning treatment sites in the fear of arrest following the statement by the Prime Minister”.
The remarks by the Prime Minister came a few hours after members of the GLCK alleged publicly that the law in Kenya hindered their coming out to seek early treatment and was responsible for poor adherence to HIV treatment programmes.
The gay community had said that they fear going to any public hospital as this is often followed by arrests.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister while addressing a rally at Kamukunji grounds in his Langata Constituency said homosexuality was unnatural and called for the arrest of gays.
“If found, homosexuals should be arrested and taken to relevant authorities,” Odinga said.
The remarks by the PM would appear to reverse what sections of the government have begun doing since 2009. Last year, the government set up a mapping exercise of gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the country’s “three biggest cities” in an effort to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The survey was considered a landmark because the government and the vast majority of Kenyan people have long refused to address homosexuality in the fight against AIDS.
Sex between men is illegal in Kenya – punishable by up to 14 years in prison – and is seen by many as a Western-imported, morally wrong behaviour that is limited to areas visited by tourists.
There have been few studies on HIV among MSM in Kenya; a survey of 285 men in Mombasa in 2007 found an HIV prevalence of 43 percent among men who had sex with men exclusively, compared with 12.3 percent among men who had sex with both men and women. Kenya’s national HIV prevalence is 7.4 percent.
Odinga said he did not see the need for one to practice homosexuality when a recent census showed there were more women than men and there was no need for same sex relationships.
He said it was madness for a man to fall in love with another man while there were plenty of women and added that there was no need for women to engage in lesbianism yet they can bear children.
Asked as to what might have prompted the PM’s remarks, Kuria said it was still early to tell but said such remarks from an African leader often comes bid to gain political leverage.
Mr Odinga’s remarks are the first from a high personality in government. But in neighbouring Uganda, the Parliament considered introducing a death penalty bill for some homosexual acts, sparking international condemnation.