Kenya is on the verge of introducing legislation that would criminalise openly identifying with, or supporting, the LGBTQ+ community, with punishments including the death penalty.
Labelled the Family Protection Act, the East African country’s bill would see a complete ban on activities that “promote homosexuality”, including openly identifying as LGBTQ+ or wearing Pride emblems.
Those found in breach of the law would face a minimum of 10 years in jail while those found guilty of performing same-sex acts would face a minimum of 14 years.
Additionally, anyone found guilty under a clause for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as engaging in “homosexual acts with a minor or disabled person and transmitting a terminal disease through sexual means”, could be executed.
The bill heavily mirrors Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was signed into law earlier this year.
Similar bills are also being proposed in Tanzania and South Sudan, while Ghana‘s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has signalled that an anti-LGBTQ+ bill is being proposed there, although he is wary of its “constitutionality”.
MP George Peter Kaluma, who has led the bill through the Kenyan parliament, said that he and the bills’ proponents want to prohibit “everything to do with homosexuality.”
He told the BBC: “The bill will propose a total ban on what the West calls sex-reassignment prescriptions and procedures and prohibit all activities that promote homosexuality.”
He added that this would include Pride parades, drag shows, wearing rainbow colours and flags, and openly wearing “emblems of the LGBTQ+ group.” Same-sex acts are already prohibited in Kenya.
In response, a coalition of LGBTQ+ and human rights groups have urged the Biden administration in the US to impose sanctions on Kenya should the bill be enacted.
In an open letter published on Monday (17 July), at least 50 not-for-profit organisations urged the government to cut Kenya’s Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) until the bill was dropped.
The letter asked individuals to sign a petition to “stop US-Kenya trade negotiations until president [William] Ruto commits to vetoing legislation that criminalises the LGBTQI+ community.”
Additionally, Zambian priest and Boston University academic Kapya Kaoma told the BBC that he believed bills such as this are part of lobbying efforts by right-wing groups to impose “militant homophobia” in Africa.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t agree with you being gay’, but politicians now are saying: ‘You go to jail for life, you go to jail for talking about being gay’.”
Annette Atieno, from the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, branded the legislation hateful, adding that it will make the lives of queer Kenyans unbearable.
A 2019 survey from the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan US think tank, found that 83 per cent of Kenyans think society should not accept homosexuality.