Can Social Media Promote Gay Rights in Kenya?
This week I was reading about social media in Kenya and I came across a lot information and I could see that social media is already happening there. There are many businesses involved with social media in Kenya, for example tourism, hotels and restaurants, retailers, etc.
However, what caught my attention was an online gay community that I found through my research. Gay Kenya, as it explains on its website, “is a Human Rights Advocacy group for LGBTI Kenyans”. The organization was created in 2004 and its missions are to stop the prejudice against gays and lesbians in Kenya and educate Kenyan society.
I was especially intrigued with this site because by talking to some friends of mine from different parts of Africa and by reading the news, it is clear that to be homosexual in Africa in general is something extremely negative and homosexuals are a common target of violence. Compared to the United States (or Brazil, my home country), in Africa gays and lesbians are much more excluded from society and much more discriminated against. The rights that homosexuals enjoy in the United States cannot be compared with the limited rights of homosexuals in Africa. In Africa, being homosexual is living with fear.
Digging into Gay Kenya I found that there are over 700 people connecting to this community. However, when you start looking on the social media tools the site offers, for example, blogs and a forum, the users are not active participating. There are few updated articles and no discussion on the forum. There is not much participation from the community.
When I was on the site, I could see that there were 50 people online but I believe that they use that space to get more educated and understand what is happening rather than to contribute to the community, based on the small number of recent postings or comments.
I found a message that makes it clear why users don`t participate.
“I understand that you are Kenyans but you have 2 things going against you here:-
– Tradition – being gay can get you killed.
– Religion – all major religions in Kenya shun it as an awful sin.
Stay in the closet or become straight. Anything else may get you hurt, arrested, or killed…literally!
For the record, I am straight, Christian, and loathe homosexuality – but recognize that you’re human beings.”
Even though some people respect human rights, the majority of the society still discriminates against homosexuals. As a Kenyan article states “Kenya has no room for homosexuals and lesbians.” Being openly gay can cause problems not just to the individual but to his or her family as well.
So could social media be used to change societies attitudes towards gays in Kenya?
Thinking about this organization, Gay Kenya, and how they could effectively use social media tools to break through the barriers and achieve their goals of stopping prejudice against homosexuals and fighting for their human’s right, it’s clear it is a hard job.
I must say that is was difficult to come up with something because this situation goes beyond creating a faccebook page or a twitter account. This topic goes to the core of a country’s beliefs , beliefs which make the homosexuals scared of putting their faces out there and admitting their preference for someone of the same sex.
Using social media only in Kenya would take time. An initial strategy could involve raising awareness internationally of the Gay Kenya organization and its mission and try to find supporters from countries that are more open to homosexuals. This could generate more buzz for the organization and could influence more gay Kenyans or even the straight ones to fight for equal rights for all Kenyans.
Now I ask you.
What do you think would be a good digital strategy for Gay Kenya organization?