In Kenya, Wedding Derailed, Anti-Gay Mob Incited

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 12, 2010

Kenya has become the latest African nation to generate headlines with anti-gay actions. After last year's proposal by a Ugandan lawmaker to put some gays to death, and the arrest of a same-sex couple in Malawi for allegedly celebrating their betrothal, Kenyan officials acted to prevent a planned celebration that reportedly would have marked the union of a gay couple.

The ceremony was to have been conducted at a private residence not far from Mombasa, a resort town, reported the BBC in a Feb. 11 article. However, local authorities stepped in following reports of the purported gay union. Said Chief Hussein Swaleh, "I was shocked." Added the chief, "I won't allow it."

In a second incident, an anti-gay mob organized by politicians and religious leaders in the Kenyan district of Kilifi chased three men--a supposed gay couple and another individual--through the streets of the town of Mtwapa. Police had to intervene to save the men, reported Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation on Feb. 12.

The vigilante action, called Operation Gays Out, was spearheaded by Sheikh Hussein Ali and Bishop Laurence Chai, the article reported. "We thank God for saving this town from being turned to Sodom and Gomorra of this era as we may be on verge of being doomed had this criminals managed to conduct their evil exercise within our neighborhood," said Chai after the melee. Chai and Ali publicly called for the government to close any night spots catering to gays, and Ali swore further violence against gays, urging residents of Mtwapa to attack them.

The BBC article noted that in many African nations homosexuality is illegal; only South Africa has extended marriage equality to gay and lesbian families. The Malawi couple, who were arrested Dec. 27 and remain in jail, have been threatened with invasive medical examinations to determine whether they have engaged in certain sexual practices; meantime, Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati has refused, despite a request from his government, to withdraw a bill proposing death for gays who have multiple sexual experiences with same-sex partners, or have sex at all if they are HIV-positive.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.