16 December 2012

Kenya: Rights Groups Hold Kenya's First Gay and Lesbian Awards

Nairobi — The Kenya Human Rights Commission and the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission on Saturday launched the first gay and lesbian awards to honour lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexual and intersex people for their contributions to Kenyan society.

The event, which was held at Charter Hall in Nairobi, saw politicians, employers and journalists awarded for their commitment to advancing equality and social acceptance for same-sex relationships in Kenya.

The aim was to encourage inclusion, tolerance and a respect for sexual diversity, one of the event's organisers, Erick Gitari, told RFI.

Extending equal rights to people in same-sex relationships is a source of contention in Kenya.

Sodomy is punishable under Kenyan law with a penalty of five to 14 years imprisonment and homosexuality is a taboo for many in a country where religion is strong.

In November 2010 supporters and members of the gay and lesbian community blasted Prime Minister Raila Odinga for saying anyone engaging in homosexual activity should be arrested.

In February the same year an armed group raided a government health centre that provides HIV/Aids services to the community.

The group insisted they were trying to "flush out the gays"', according to a Human Rights Watch report.

But the event in Nairobi on Saturday represented a break from the past.

Both the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission intend to host this event next year.

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