Seeking space, place, and human rights in the 21st century: Kenya’s gay men at a crossroads and civil society’s response
Concerning sexual minorities and specifically gay men in Africa, the discord between law and practice emerges from a bias towards heteronormative behaviour steeped in cultural epistemologies. Gay men have consistently experienced difficulty in expressing their right to love, and freedom to live visibly in places of their choice. Additionally, a lack of overt institutional socio-structural support for their rights has done little to alleviate their situation despite protective legal provisions entrenched in Kenya’s constitution. This paper investigates the tenuous nexus between legal protections and the social realities of Kenya’s gay men with a view to exposing fissures. Using the qualitative research paradigm, we explore the socio-legal contradictions experienced by gay men in Kenya whose continuous challenging of entrenched socio-cultural attitudes and macro structural bias is framing the ongoing conversation. We find that the role of civil society is multidimensional, fundamental and indispensable. First, civil society is well positioned to debunk societal myths and reduce bias, discrimination and animosity towards gay men. Second, it facilitates through advocacy meaningful inclusiveness of gay men in Kenya’s social spaces. Finally, civil society enhances legal protection through institutional frameworks, safeguarding and ensuring recognition of the human rights of gay men in Kenya.
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