A high level commission of the Kenyan government has published a report calling for the decriminalization of same-sex relations and sex work in the East African nation. The Kenya National Human Rights Commission's report on sexual and reproductive health rights was published this week, reports the Daily Nation.
According to the report, the gay and lesbian community in the country, together with those practising commercial sex work, had complained that they were being discriminated against [because of] laws that criminalised their activities.
Ms Winfred Lichuma, a KNHRC commissioner who chaired the inquiry panel said the country also needed to address the issue of "sexual minorities" as their numbers were fast increasing. “We need to focus on sexual minorities and address their issues because their numbers are increasing fast and they are in our midst,” she said.
"[The governnment] should also regulate voluntary sex work for men and women in order to make the practice safe for prostitutes and their clients," the report [added].
Kenya's government is considered progressive on gay rights. Same-sex relations are illegal—penalties are between five and 14 years’ imprisonment—but arrests and prosecutions are rare. Kenya was the first African nation to include men who have sex with men in their national HIV strategy. Two pro-LGBT justices were confirmed to the Supreme Court in June 2011. The recently-appointed Chief Justice Dr. Willy Munyoki Mutunga has said that "gay rights are human rights" and expresed a desire to overturn anti-gay legislation. As of result, Kenya has rapidly become a refuge for many LGBTs who have been persecuted in East African nations.
But there has been a backlash against previous calls to decriminalize homosexuality in the East African nation. In November 2010, Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for the mass arrests of gays at a political rally but later retracted his statements.
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is also the only African nation to guarantee marriage equality.
Some Background ...
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UN Chief Urges African Leaders to Respect Gays
KENYA: Pro-LGBT Justices Confirmed
Controversy in Kenya After Pro LGBT Nominees
Kenyan Prime Minister: "All Gays Should Be Arrested"
KENYA: Questions Surround Mandatory HIV Testing
AIDS 2010: Joel Nana on African Gay/Bi Men, HIV
WATCH: CNN Surveys Gay Rights in SA, Kenya, Cuba
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Kenya: "Things are Changing in Favor of Gays"