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Can Social Media Promote Gay Rights in Kenya?

by on July 20, 2010

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.
My advice:
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?

From → Kenya

  1. Amina- Great post, and molto veloce! I was looking at the same topic after I saw an article on titled ‘No-Sex-Month’ to Slow Down Spread of Aids. This is a very poignant topic for Kenya and most of Africa. – Ryan

  2. Amina, great, thought-provoking topic! It is a cultural issue and, like you pointed out on your post, it would be interesting to find out if social media would drive changes in societal perceptions. One other area that relates to this as well is with how the Kenyan government is trying to fight HIV/AIDS through social media. From what I’ve read, the gay community has been difficult for them to reach because of the exact same stigma you talked about.

  3. Roela, during my readings about Kenya and the gay community there, it was clear that there is a big struggle and it is hard to imagine how social media would break through the beliefs that many Kenyans hold.

  4. This is an amazing topic to address…Great job!!

  5. You share an intriguing question in this post and have several good sites you feature. The one that you focus on, Gay Kenya, seems to have two sides to it. One is the side that fights the battle for rights of LGBTI Kenyans. The other is a more lighthearted side that comes through for example in the blog posts from Denis Nzioka:

    The link you shared to the Africa-wide community called The Mask was also interesting. What felt missing for me was your looking deeper at Gay Kenya to see the potential negative side of the comments that were posted and the blog posts somewhat playing into those fears and stereotypes with mock posts title things like “Find, Fool, F*ck, Forget.” Do these types of content undermine the mission of the site? If so, does the Mask website have a better model for their site that Gay Kenya may want to emulate? When I visited Gay Kenya, this was one of the first things I noticed and it got me wondering about it. Answering those points is the main thing I would love to see added to this post, as I imagine other readers would wonder the same thing as soon as they visited the site. (4 + 1 for being first = 5)

  6. Hey guys, you have a very proactive discussion and it’s good to know that this touches you so deeply. I will give you a bunch of links and a better assessment of this blog. Thanx guys.

  7. as it stands now, few LGBTI Kenyans are involved in capacity building even in the social media angle. i think we should try and tackle this first. close to 3 million kenyans use the internet. if we can change their views on the gay issue, we can be assuring ourselves of the same via a trickle down effect from tech savvy ones to those who do not use the internet. we are still a community shrouded in anonymity and persecuted by ignorance. if we can only change that, it will be a big win on our part!!
    again, this is a very good article and it is great that it has opened a discussion of sorts with people chipping in whatever views they’ve got. this is what we need in Kenya. we need to develop social media awareness in that direction. check my blog Amina and tell me what you think

  8. Benz permalink

    Thank you so much 4 supporting us Kenyans.But whenever you have an account in gay kenya,fb kenya locks off your account.

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