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Isabelle Gerretsen has published 28 articles

LGBTQ pioneer visits Oxford University

Kenyan gay activist gives speech at Oxford
Isabelle Gerretsen on Sunday 28th October 2012
Photograph: loosegarments.com

David Kuria Mbote, the first openly gay black person in Africa to run for national office outside South Africa, addressed students last Friday at an event hosted by the LGBTQ society.

In his talk Kuria, a senate candidate for the Kenyan 2013 elections, discussed various LGBT issues in Africa including criminalisation laws, HIV vaccination research and media portrayal.

David Kuria founded the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), an umbrella organisation for multiple LGBTQ groups in the country, with the aim to create more awareness and support. However, in his speech he stressed that they still had a long way to go. He said that if a white gay couple asked for a room at a hotel in Nairobi they would be accepted, however that it would be a very different matter if a Kenyan gay couple were to do so.

The Kenyan politician stated that if elected his main priority would be the removal of structural barriers to HIV prevention, treatment and care. He said that more research was necessary and emphasised the importance of “allies in academia” who could present the opposition with properly researched arguments.

When asked why the LGBTQ society decided to invite David Kuria to speak, Meghan Bailey, who organised the talk, said, “There has been a considerable amount of news coverage on the treatment of LGBTQ people in East Africa over the past few years - most notably the murder of two prominent gay activists.”

She continued, “Members of our society often wonder what they could do to help reduce violence and discrimination towards LGBTQ people in places where attitudes are more hostile than here in the UK. My answer to this has always been to work in solidarity with the local LGBTQ rights movements in other countries, which is why having David speak to the group was so important.”

Bailey witnessed the discrimination against LGBTQ citizens in Kenya firsthand while working for a NGO in Mombasa 5 years ago. She told Cherwell, “Gay men were regularly being refused access to doctors etc; there was occasional violence, even murders, that were going undocumented. It was also becoming popular to have ‘exposés’ in the news - people taking secret cameras into areas where gay men and trans women were known to spend time and then selling photos or videos to the major Kenyan news providers.”

Lance Price, Executive Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, which invited Mr Kuria to the UK, said, “David is an inspirational and very brave man who is willing to stand up and be counted on a continent where for generations gay people have been forced to keep their heads down or risk physical attack or worse.”

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