Kenya has a progressive constitution with a bill of rights that is referenced frequently in deciding cases touching on freedom of association, freedom of expression, right to information and access to services, amongst others. Kenya is also a signatory to the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which defines ‘sex’ as inclusive of sexual orientation.
Nonetheless, the reality is that sexual minorities in Kenya live as second class citizens. Evidence of this has been through a series of arrests and harrassment of transgenders.
One reason for this is that religion plays a major role in influencing the attitudes of the Kenyan population around issues of sexuality and gender identity. The political class also uses religious arguments against homosexuality to gain popularity among voters. 1
The ability of the Kenyan transgender debate to circumvent the opposition of religious groups has largely depended on framing transgenderism as a mental disorder, but the acceptance of sexual orientation diversity faces a much greater challenge.
Hivos has responded to this by collaborating with the Arcus Foundation to improve the position of transgender and gender-nonconforming persons in Kenyan society with the Advancing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Rights programme.
Specific outcomes for this programme include:
- Legal support for transgender and gender-nonconforming persons
- Advocacy for and monitoring of relevant legal reforms
- Media campaigns on human rights of transgender persons
- Training and awareness for public servants on transgenderism and transgender rights
- Media coverage of training given on the human rights of transgender persons
- Responsible media reporting on the human rights of transgender persons
In its last Universal Periodic Review, Kenya actually accepted a recommendation to harmonise existing laws and policies with the constitution. However, policy frameworks that touch on Sexual Orientation Gender Identity (SOGI) minorities’ issues, such as legal recognition, provision of health services, access to violation reporting mechanisms, education and employment fall far short of standards set by the constitution.
Streamlining such policies with the constitution is of utmost importance if minorities of any kind in the country are to enjoy their full rights as citizens.
With our Open Society programmes, Hivos cooperates with many partners to address prejudices and stigmas against LGBT groups. For example, a recent study comissioned by Hivos called Colourful Workplaces examined how multinational companies translate their often progressive policies on LGBT diversity into practice in Kenya, despite the existing legal barriers and stigmatising socio-cultural norms.