- About Me
- My Blog
- Thought Leadership
- Creative Corner
- “Love Is My Revolution”
- Guest Posts
- Special Series
- My Work
- Book Me
Kenya’s views on same-gender relationships involving women present quite the dichotomy.
Just last week, I stumbled across this video report from NTV Kenya about the suspension of twelve secondary school students due to allegations of “lesbianism.” The girls were sent home by the principal upon receiving information of their “abnormal” behavior from the rest of the student body.
According to a statement made by the principal, Dorcas Kavuku, “these particular girls were not behaving according to the school rules. They practiced lavish touching and kissed each other which is not normal for people of the same gender,” and so she’d sent them home pending further investigation. A similar story was reported last year involving over fifty girls being questioned for “lesbianism and devil worship.”
Is expulsion on the grounds of
homophobia “lesbianism” becoming a more popular trend? One would certainly hope not. Given the number of societal challenges that already bar young girls from receiving basic education in Kenya (e.g. early marriage, pregnancy, harassment by male teachers, etc.), a country in which girls drop out at a higher rate than boys, denying young girls the right to remain in school hardly makes any sense, even with Kenya’s views on homosexuality.
Incidentally, as convinced as the principal is that same gender relationships between girls are wrong, Kenya’s constitution doesn’t necessarily reflect this sentiment. Sections 162 to 165 of the Kenyan Penal Code criminalize homosexual behaviour and attempted homosexual behaviour between men, not women, a loophole Kenya’s Prime Minister Odinga disregarded in 2010 when he called for lesbians to be arrested along with men to protect the “cleanliness” of the country. Still, lesbian relations are not currently prohibited in the law, which makes sense given Kenya’s long-standing tradition of permitting women to get married in the absence of a male partner.
According to a BBC news report published yesterday:
Homosexual acts may be outlawed in Kenya but there is a long tradition among some communities of women marrying each other.
This is hard to fathom in a country where religious leaders condemn gay unions as “un-African” – and those who dare to declare their partnerships openly often receive a hostile public reaction.
But these cases involving women are not regarded in the same light.
If a woman has never had any children, she takes on what is regarded as the male role in a marriage, providing a home for the younger woman, who is then encouraged to take a male sexual partner from her partner’s clan to become pregnant.
Her offspring will be regarded as the fruit of the marriage.
“I married according to our age-old tradition, where if a woman was not lucky enough to have her own children, she got another woman to honour her with children,” says 67-year-old Juliana Soi.
This customary same-gender marriage arrangement – practised among Kenya’s Kalenjin (encompassing the Nandi, Kipsigis, and Keiyo), Kuria and Akamba communities – has come under the legal spotlight recently because of an inheritance case currently before the courts; some relatives are fighting to inherit a large house which would, by law, pass to the spouse of the late wife.
As the report gleans, if the court rules in favor of the same-gender spouse, it would challenge the patriarchal approach to family relationships, and give woman-to-woman marriages a stronger footing in the modern world. And modern is the key word, since traditional same-sex marriages have been a historical part of Africa’s culture — in over 30 different populations, including the Yoruba, Ibo, Nuer, Lovedu, Zulu, and Sotho — long before colonialism imported homophobia.
In this light, the dichotomy of Kenya’s views towards same-gender relationships involving women isn’t so confusing; it represents Africa’s struggle to find a balance between preserving the old and embracing the new.
Meet Spectra: Queer Nigerian Afrofeminist Writer and Media Activist. Social Entrepreneur Nurturing Principled Diaspora and Women's Philanthropy in Media and Tech. Self-Care and Self-Love Evangelist. Idealist Warrior Woman. Big Dreamer. Big Thinker. Big Doer, Too.
Do you believe in the connection between love and social justice? Do you believe that LGBTQ rights is a transnational issue? Do you believe that gender and trans struggles are integral to the racial justice movement? If so, check out Spectra. She’s awesome, fierce, and most importantly, speaks from the heart.
I love not only your thoughts, but also how you express them… Your love-centered, hopeful, positive and proactive voice is incredibly refreshing and exactly what I’ve been looking for recently in the feminist blogosphere.Sara
Spectra has allowed myself, and many I know, access safer spaces to have much needed, challenging and powerful conversations that would otherwise not occur in our communities.ShakiraThe Network/La Red
… a flexible and effective communicator with youth across various social, class and cultural strata.AyariGirl Scouts Program Coordinator
Spectra is a talented speaker and facilitator and is especially adept at working with groups of students in ways that both challenge and support individual viewpoints.http://Eva, Harvard Women's Center
… a force to be reckoned with–in a very positive way. Spectra has the “gift” of envisioning the greatness we can achieve and uniting the folks who will make that happen. I adore her.TimFenway Health
… [an] articulate weaving of personal experience and analysis.Becky
By sharing your story, you allow people like me to relate, to experience, to learn and to share with others as well. thank you, thank you, thank you.JT
Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being an inspiration to so many people.WayoftheLiz
We love it when Spectra Speaks!The Theater Offensive
Top Posts & Pages
- A Gay Zulu Wedding and the Danger of a Single LGBT African Story
- A Thank You To My Friends and Family for the Unconditional Love and Support
- African Women Musicians: Queer Namibian Songwriter Shishani Launches Debut Album Campaign
- Love and Afrofeminism: 5 Core Self-Care Principles Every Activist Should Live By
- No events. Self-care break.