The US Embassy in Kenya is believed to have given the country its first Pride with a small event that was held on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning the embassy [in Kenya's capital Nairobi] presented what is thought to be the first LGBT Pride celebration in Kenya, where homosexual acts are punishable by law. Similar events are being held at U.S. embassies around the world. The push to promote global LGBT rights follows several victories for gay rights advocates in the U.S. over the past year.
John Haynes, a public affairs officer at the U.S. embassy, introduced the event. “The U.S. government for its part has made it clear that the advancement of human rights for LGBT people is central to our human rights policies around the world and to the realization of our foreign policy goals,” he said.
Many Kenyan LGBT rights advocates welcomed the move as a quiet marker of visibility for the LGBT community. However, there was some opposition among certain gay rights campaigners who feared that this open advocacy may lead to a crackdown by local officials.
To contextualize, the Kenyan Penal Code provides for up to 14 years imprisonment for a man having “carnal knowledge” of another man. Non-consensual same-sex activity, that is to say in cases of rape or, and more problematic, cases where so-called intimidation has occurred, could lead to a maximum 21-year sentence.
While these higher provisions are relatively rarely invoked, the air of denunciation and marginalization they create is a strong deterrent in itself that prevents LGBTs from even wanting to be visible, meaning they will often not even seek assistance in an emergency.
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made the promotion of global LGBT rights a recurring theme at many of her speaking engagements, saying that the Obama administration wishes to advance human rights for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Most recently, the Secretary of State recorded a video celebrating this June’s Pride celebrations in which she reiterated a commitment to the goal of global nondiscrimination.