Marked on 17 May every year, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) raises awareness on hate crimes, acts of persecution and hatred faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people worldwide.
On the eve of IDAHOT, 16 May 2017, Hivos East Africa together with the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), Love Matters and the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) partnered to hold a family reception for the LGBTI community in Kenya.
Focusing on the theme: ‘’It’s all about love and family’’, the event held panel discussions on the role of families as a supportive pillar towards the LGBTI community, especially at a time when they are suffering increasing rejection from society.
According to statistics from the Human Rights Watch, there have been at least six incidences of mob violence against LGBT persons in Kenya since 2008. At the heart of these alarming statistics, homosexuality is still a punishable crime in Kenya under the Penal Code. Consenting adults can face up to 14 years in prison for same-sex relations.
Speaking during the discussions, Josephine, mother of an LGBTI person, decried the degree of stigma in Kenya, ‘’We all parade the anthem of human rights, but easily forget it speaks about equality for all regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,’’ she said. ‘’Why should my daughter be treated differently because of her sexual orientation? We need to put a stop to all this hate!’’, she exclaimed.
Stressing the important role of families in creating acceptance, Alexandra from the LGBTI community spoke of the need for families to accompany their words with actions in order to increase support for their LGBTI children and relatives, ‘’My family played an enormous role during my transition journey, which was vital in acceptance,’’ she said.
A message that was reiterated constantly during the event was: Supportive families do make a difference in the lives of LGBTI persons.
At the end of the meeting, it was recommended that LGBTI parents be included in a support and mentorship group where they can share experiences to help themselves and fellow parents cope with the daily struggles they face emanating from stigma and discrimination, and also learn more ways of understanding, accepting and supporting their LGBTI children with love.
Some basic facts on the role of families (source Family Acceptance Project):
- Diverse and supportive families have helped LGBTI persons to speak about their sexual and gender orientation without fear;
- Family relationships are a supportive pillar against societal backlash;
- How families react to their children’s or relatives’ coming out as LGBTI persons has an impact on their mental health and well-being.
Through the Voice Programme which is jointly executed by Hivos and Oxfam Novib, we believe that by providing such spaces; families of marginalised communities such as the LGBTI are important allies in advancing the agenda on inclusion and fairness.
Hivos East Africa is among the front runners in the region that has been championing the cause of sexual rights and diversity. We imagine a future where sexual minorities are accepted in Africa. This is a future where sexual and gender minorities can enjoy the freedom of simply being human: going to school, accessing health services, growing in their careers, playing leadership roles in society and enjoying their sexuality without facing stigma.
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