First gay wedding in Kenya called off after protests


WHAT WAS supposed to be Kenya’s first gay wedding was cancelled yesterday, after a wave of protests from the country’s religious community.

The ceremony, which was supposed to take place in the popular seaside town of Mtwapa, faced an angry backlash from the town’s Muslim and Christian community, who took to the streets on the same day under an operation dubbed “Operation Gays Out”.

Three people, known to locals as “notorious gays”, had to be rescued from outside the Kenyan Medical Research Unit (Kemri) in the town. The centre offers services to over 400 male and female sex workers, including gays.

Four people were arrested yesterday morning at the Kemri unit in Mtwapa. Those arrested were said to have been “invading” the unit, said one source.

There was some doubt about whether there was any wedding planned in the first place, stoking suggestions that it was a wild rumour designed to stoke up anti-gay tension in the town, 10 miles north of Mombassa.

“We are hearing conflicting reports,” said Solomon Wambua of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya.

Last month, Kenyan MPs deleted a controversial clause in the draft constitution that experts had warned could legalise same-sex marriages. The proposed draft stated that “every adult has the right to found a family”.

Calling the anti-gay protests a success, Bishop Lawrence Chai of the National Council of Churches said: “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 neighbourhood,” reported the Daily Nation, East Africa’s principal broadsheet.

According to a statement from the clerics, a large number of youths were being attracted to gay clubs.

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, with sex between consenting male adults punishable by up to 14 years in prison under the country’s penal code.

However, because health information on gay sex cannot be openly distributed – because otherwise, groups doing so would be accused of aiding and abetting a felony – much of the community remains ignorant of the risks associated with sexual behaviour.

According to a study by the National Aids Control Council, the body charged with controlling the spread of HIV in the country, 35 per cent of gay sex workers did not know that HIV could be transmitted during anal intercourse.

The “gay wedding” furore comes at a time of heightened anti-gay tensions in Africa. Last week, a gay rights campaigner was arrested in Malawi, and later this month the Ugandan parliament will debate a controversial bill that proposes the death penalty for men caught having sex with other men.

The proposed law has been sharply criticised by the international community, with US President Barack Obama describing it as “odious”.

In October, two Kenyan men, Charles Ngengi (40) and Daniel Chege Gichia (39), became civil partners in the UK under the country’s Civil Partnership Act, raising public debate about homosexuality in Kenya for the first time.