Beware of bills that criminalise people based on their identities
Recent public taunting of the Speaker and the Presidency to have the Family Protection Bill leapfrog other laws before the National Assembly suggest that interests backed by strange foreign alliances seem dead set on dropping another crisis at the feet of the Presidency at a time, he needs it least. This #StandardSettingKE editorial was published in the 18 November 2023 Saturday Standard with Bishop Joseph W. Tolton
Last month a handful of demonstrations and sermons in Nairobi and Mombasa called for the further criminalisation of Kenyans in same-sex relationships. On Wednesday, Minority opposition MP Peter Kaluma wrote to Speaker Moses Wetangula to publicly protest delays in publishing his bill. Copy-pasted in large part from infamous Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (2023), his Family Protection Bill (2023) seeks to stigmatise, criminalise, and incarcerate Kenya’s sexual minorities. His letter follows a recent visit by Advocate Charles Kanjama and other Kenya Christian Professionals Forum members. A chorus is developing that President Ruto must declare his stand.
Ironically while some frame their criminalisation arguments in anti-western imperialist narratives, they remain silent on the vast financial flows being channelled by western anti-rights groups to introduce “African” hate-bills. Among them are the Fellowship Foundation, The World Congress of Families and Family Watch International.
According to openDemocracy, between 2007 and 2018 US anti-rights groups spent Sh7.7 billion (US$50 million) in Africa. The Fellowship Foundation or the Family as they like to call themselves is probably responsible for 40 per cent of this funding. Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati who introduced the abortive 2014 anti-gay bill has credited The Fellowship Foundation’s annual ‘national prayer breakfast’ in the US as an inspiration for that bill.
It was the World Congress of Families who co-hosted the Accra based “natural family” summit which saw Ghanaian MPs discuss and then later pass the Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill. This bill provides for three years prison time for persons who self-identify as non-binary and ten years for human rights advocates. The bill currently lies like smelly underwear in a drawer awaiting Presidential assent.
This year, openDemocracy further reported that Family Watch International co-founders Greg and Sharon Slater have convened or funded several anti-LGBTIQ, anti-sexual and reproductive rights training sessions for African politicians and other groups. Mr. Kaluma attended one such event in Uganda, namely the African Interparliamentary Forum on Family Values and Sovereignty in March.
Like the previous century of faith-led colonisation, white Christian evangelical interests are spending millions to promote anti-LGBTIQ and anti-women legislation. Synchronised hate-based and fundamentalist crusades are enabling American conservatives to build a formidable web of politicized religious organizing between white America and Africa. Like Uganda and Ghana, Kenya is now in their sights. Terrorizing Africa’s sexual minorities is only the point of entry, like colonialism, the long-term objective is economic and cultural domination.
Should it not concern us that it is these same interests that support or are silent when African American communities are being stripped of their voting rights, violently policed, flooded with guns and told to erase the history of slavery and racism from public schools? Should it not concern us that this foreign anti-rights movement is so eager to protect colonial homophobic laws and unleash cultural division where there has been co-existence up to now? It worries the United Nations. In 2021, it cautioned member nations against creating "a system of state-sponsored discrimination and violence" by passing hate laws that target people based on their identities and choices.
These domestic interests and their foreign allies are dragging The Presidency into a high stakes policy distraction that risks licensing horrific crimes and an international backlash at a time the nation does not need it politically or economically. Matthew 7:13 is instructive to the President and those currently around him. Resist those that urge you to enter the wide gate, it may lead to the destruction of all that is important to you and this distressed and restless nation.
Irũngũ Houghton is Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director and Bishop Joseph William Tolton is Interconnected Justice Founder and President. They write in their personal capacity. Emails: Irungu.firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com