Over 74 churches in Kenya have called for the sacking of the country’s Special Programmes Minister, Esther Murugi, because she advocated tolerance of gay people.

Speaking in Mombasa at a national HIV/Aids conference last week, Murugi said that Kenyans should learn to co-exist with gays and lesbians.

“We need to learn to live with men who have sex with other men… we are in the 21st century and things have changed,” she told delegates at the event.

Her comments have been slammed by fundamentalist Christian churches as well as Islamic religious leaders in Kenya, who have petitioned President Kibaki to get rid of Murugi because she is “unfit to hold public office”.

“This should happen in the shortest time possible; failure to which we shall not be left with any other option other than to ask those who care about righteousness and morality to demonstrate against her, “ Bishop Dr Joseph said in a statement to the Daily Nation newspaper.

Denis Nzioka from Gay Kenya said that the organisation fully supported Murugi.

“Esther Murugi is a well learned, informed and capable leader. She is in the know on the current social trends that affect the country and HIV/AIDS is one of them,” he said.

He further commented that the religious leaders’ calls for her to be sacked “…are unwelcome, ignorant and miss the point. We, as Gay Kenya, support and echo those same sentiments of Esther Murugi, if not to advocate for gays to be accepted and respected, but at least to ensure access to health for all…”

Homosexuality, referred to as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, is illegal in Kenya with penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

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