We Must Target the Origins of Homophobic Violence: Religion and Culture
Category : Naya Blog
By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)
Image Courtesy: Advocate.Com
Homophobia is among the major issues affecting Kenyans today. If we are to make meaningful strides, we must also address societal and contexts that create and fuel homophobia in the Kenyan society.
Research has shown that, acts of abuse and violence against LGBT people are a clear symptom of a broader societal problem that must be treated structurally if we are to ever succeed in reducing and eradicating violence against LGBT people in the country.
Homophobic beliefs drive homophobic conduct that occurs in all domains of societal life: at home, at school, in politics, on television, on the Internet, in churches, in organizations, at work and on the streets.
In Kenya, 96 % of its residents believe that homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept. Traditional religious and cultural values play a substantial role in these figures. Leaders within the three dominate religions in Kenya, Catholic, Anglican and Islamic, condemn homosexuality and transgenderism as signs of decadence, disease, and immorality.
Any discussion about homophobia in Kenya must absolutely reference religion and culture. In general, Religion and culture have played a key role in the fueling of homophobia throughout society. Religious leaders and traditional leaders in Kenya continue to teach extremely negative views about homosexuality and gay people and have taken on an almost national leadership role in the demonization of gay people under the veil of religion.
People who are born into certain religious and cultural environments and grow up hearing toxic anti-gay messages develop negative views about the LGBT. Young and impressionable minds can internalize the notion that gay people are inferior and that homosexuality is an “abomination,” something unnatural and deviant. This infecting of the mind with distorted and false information is an extremely powerful process and in many cases lays the foundation for future anti-LGBT abuse and violence.
Article 32 of the Kenyan constitution provides the “right and freedom of religion.” Well that should also include freedom from religion. I believe that the religious and cultural views of the “majority” should not be used to oppress the minority.
While those who practice particular religions are free to believe whatever they wish to believe and express their views, freedom of expression as stated in article 33 of the Kenyan constitution does not extend to incitement to violence, hate speech or advocacy of hatred that— (i) constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm; or (ii) is based on any ground of discrimination specified or contemplated in Article 27 (4) of the Kenyan Constitution. Furthermore article 33 states that, in the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, every person shall respect the rights and reputation of others.
Any effort to seriously reduce or eradicate homophobic abuse and violence in society must address the roles that religion and culture play in the development and fueling of homophobic messages about LGBT people. Together we can defeat the forces of hate and in the process create a better society and world for everyone.
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