To his credit, he recanted fairly quickly, clarifying that he had merely been explaining the provisions in this respect in the new Constitution and that he’d neither issued orders for the arrest of gay people nor intended to in the future.
But the damage done in some ways has not been reversed.
His declaration unleashed a public wave of homophobia â€” and triggered yet more harassment for extortion purposes of Kenyans perceived to be gay by the police.
The former was evidenced by letters to the editor and discussions on Kenyan listserves.
And the latter by testimony from those unfortunate enough to have come to the attention of those patrolling the streets.
What this all showed is this: Kenya is not exempt, as we’ve liked to believe, from the extreme levels of homophobia witnessed in the past few years across the continent and, most notably for us, across the border in Uganda.
What has prevented its public expression here, in the main, is that the state has been reluctant to let itself be dragged into the fray.
And because of that lack of state support, homophobic citizens have, by and large, refrained from acting extremely on their homophobia
The question that thus pertains is whether that state reluctance to pronounce on “gay rights” will hold into the future.
In answering that question, we need to know what has informed that state reluctance to date. And we need to know what we will do if it does not hold.
I think the state has been fairly modern and pragmatic to date. It has shown that it does not consider it its duty to impinge on the private domain â€” except where not doing so would pose dangers or risks to individuals.
For example, with respect to violence against children and women in the context of the family.
It has, to date, only prevaricated when absolutely pushed to the wall by the family values and morality crowd.