Metro Weekly

President Obama putting LGBT rights “front and center” in Kenya visit

"I was very blunt about my belief that everybody deserves fair treatment," Obama told the BBC

Barack Obama - Credit: Pete Souza/White House

Barack Obama – Credit: Pete Souza/White House

President Barack Obama will put an emphasis on the importance of LGBT rights in his state visit to Kenya, he told the BBC.

Despite several trips to Africa during his presidency, this it the first time the President has visited Kenya — the birthplace of his father — while in office. In an interview with the BBC ahead of his trip, Obama made clear that he would be raising the issue of LGBT rights with Kenya’s president, despite protests from some politicians in the nation.

“The deputy president in Kenya, who you’re going to meet, Mr Ruto, he said, ‘We have heard that in the US they have allowed gay relations and other dirty things,'” BBC correspondent Jon Sopel told the President.

“Yeah. Well, I disagree with him on that, don’t I?” Obama responded. “And I’ve had this experience before when we’ve visited Senegal in my last trip to Africa.

“I was very blunt about my belief that everybody deserves fair treatment, equal treatment in the eyes of the law and the state,” he continued. “And that includes gays, lesbians, transgender persons. I am not a fan of discrimination and bullying of anybody on the basis of race, on the basis of religion, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.”

The President declared that LGBT rights would be “front and center” as part of his agenda, alongside Kenya’s treatment of women and girls. Mr. Obama emphasized his personal connection to the nation, which fueled a desire to see greater equality in the region.

“As somebody who has family in Kenya and knows the history of how the country so often is held back because women and girls are not treated fairly, I think those same values apply when it comes to different sexual orientations,” he said.

The President won’t have an easy task ahead of him in convincing Kenyans that LGBT rights are an important part of improving their nation. A UN report determined that homosexuality is “largely considered to be taboo and repugnant to [the] cultural values and morality” of Kenya. Sex between men is illegal, punishable by up to 21 years in prison, while transgender individuals are often subject to stigma and violence from the general public.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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