Other Sheep Kenya in collaboration with Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme NGO held a seminar on human sexuality and homophobia in Nairobi on 21st November, 2009. The 15 participants were drawn from the Catholic Church, United Methodist Church, Anglican, Metropolitan Community Church, Friends Church, Kenyatta University, Teachers, High School Students, Women Community leaders, Reconciling Ministries Network and Changing Attitude.

Rev. Michael Kimindu, Other Sheep East Africa Coordinator said that homophobia and transphobia has to be addressed at all levels of the society. He gave an example of the government of Uganda that had come up with a Bill to criminalize homosexuality with life sentences and death penalties. “Other Sheep has done a lot of mobilization against this Anti-homosexuality Bill 2009 by appealing to the whole world community to reject it”.

He said that the Kenyan Committee of Experts on the drafting of the new constitution has lacked courage to recognize and protect the rights of LGBTI in the draft. He described the committee’s decision as “homophobic and transphobia”.

He blamed the church for all the problems we are having of oppression, discrimination, power hungry, racism, tribalism, nepotism, gossip, and hypocrisy. “Go to the church and you will get all these menu”.

Rev. John Makokha said that the mission of Other Sheep Kenya is an ecumenical organization that works for tolerance and inclusion of LGBTI in their respective faith based institutions, society and family. “Discrimination based on homophobia and transphobia is sin, and if Jesus was to come back today, he would go to the gay bashes”.

He said we cannot have an HIV-Free generation if there is discrimination against sexual minorities on the basis of their sexual orientation. Research has shown that stigma, discrimination and criminalization faced by homosexuals are major barriers for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. “We have to promote HIV/AIDS programs for men who have sex with men, and women who have sex with women for us to succeed in the Total War against Aids (TOWA) in Kenya.”

Anne Baraza, CEO of Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme NGO and Advisory Counselor of Other Sheep said that serious education and counseling for Parents, Friends of Lesbian and Gay persons and even transgender and intersex persons was important in Africa. “We need to double our work in this area.” She said that her programs will mainly target women since they are the ones who give birth to both heterosexual and homosexual babies. History has shown that women can change the world view of the society.

She said that there are a lot of LGBTI suffering from stigma and discrimination in our society due to ignorance on matters of human sexuality. This has made some to turn to drug abuse since nobody is concerned about them. “Let us listen to the concerns of LGBTI with open ears and open minds with the heart of God”.

A Catholic Priest appreciated the trainings that Other Sheep was doing using interesting Biblical and theological interpretation. He gave a wakeup call to psychological counselors in Africa to tell people the truth about issues of homosexuality without sounding homophobic in order to please their religious institutions and the society.

Another Catholic priest said that sexual orientation is about nature and not nurture. This is about human nature that has existed throughout the history of mankind. “This is the education that should go to our people in Africa”.

A high school teacher and a mother of four teenage sons said that the biggest worry about homosexuality in Africa is lack of procreation. According to African traditions men marry women so that they can carry the name of the family through child bearing. “People who have no children do not have a good standing in the family and society. They are treated as social outcasts and even when they die, they are not given a decent burial”.

The organization of this seminar was made possible with the grant from Uhai-Eashri (East Africa Sexual Rights Initiative).

Rev. John Makokha

Rev. John Makokha is senior pastor of Riruta UMC in Nairobi, Kenya. He earned his B.Ed. Degree at the University of Nairobi and served as graduate teacher at Maji Mazuri High School. There, he taught Kiswahili and history and communications skills. In addition, he was a counselor, mentor, drama patron and chaired the school’s HIV/AIDS association.
He was ordained as a minister in the Triumphant Pentecostal Church and served as a pastor in a Free Methodist Church. After earning an M.A. degree in Missions at Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology, he started Riruta United Methodist Church, the only Reconciling Ministry in Africa.
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