NAIROBI (Reuters) - Homosexuality in Kenya is as bad a problem as terrorism, the ruling party’s parliamentary leader said on Wednesday, but argued against stepping up legal sanctions on the grounds that existing laws were tough enough.
Aden Duale, the majority leader from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee coalition, was responding to a group of MPs demanding tougher laws.
“Can’t we just be brave enough, seeing that we are a sovereign state, and outlaw gayism and lesbianism, the way Uganda has done?” legislator Alois Lentoimaga said.
Uganda has voted for life imprisonment for some homosexual acts, prompting some international donors to suspend aid.
Duale, who speaks on behalf of the Kenyan government in the assembly, said: “We need to go on and address this issue the way we want to address terrorism ...
“It’s as serious as terrorism. It’s as serious as any other social evil,” Duale said, referring to a spate of attacks by al Qaeda-linked Somali Islamist militants carried out in retaliation for Kenya’s intervention in neighboring Somalia.
But he said the Kenyan constitution and the penal code already had sufficient anti-gay provisions, denying the government was reluctant to tighten such laws for fear of losing international aid.
Duale said 595 cases of homosexuality had been investigated in Kenya since 2010, when a new constitution was adopted, and courts had convicted or acquitted the accused, while police had found no organizations openly championing homosexuality in violation of the law.
“We do not need to go the Uganda way, we have the constitution and the penal code to deal with homosexuality, and so this debate is finished, we will not be enacting any new tougher laws,” Duale told Reuters later.
Homosexuality is broadly taboo in Africa and illegal in 37 countries. Fear of violence, imprisonment and loss of jobs means few gays in Africa are open about their sexuality.
Kenya’s penal code says any person “who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” is guilty of a felony and can be jailed for 14 years.
Anti-gay groups have emerged in Kenya after Nigeria and Uganda toughened up laws against homosexuals.
One of these groups, The Save Our Men Initiative, has said it is launching a “Zuia Sodom Kabisa” campaign, meaning “prevent Sodom completely” in Swahili, to “save the family, save youth, save Kenya”.
Nigeria has outlawed same-sex relationships. Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has said homosexuals are “vermin” and must be fought like malaria-causing mosquitoes.
Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Editing by Ruth Pitchford