For the first time, the U.S. is reportedly set to host a commemoration of LGBT Pride at its embassy in Nairobi on June 26.
According to Identity Kenya, local LGBT activists and dignitaries have been invited to the event.
The function is seen by some as a uniquely safe opportunity to celebrate Pride in a country in which homosexuality is still not accepted.
“The pride, which the White house and most American embassies across the world mark [every] June, is a powerful example to governments on how leadership should be protecting minority groups, in celebrating diversity and fighting prejudices,” Eric Gitari, a lawyer and queer activist who was invited, told the website.
Some activists, however, are less impressed with the embassy’s apparently unilateral plans, saying that the event could lead to a backlash against the local LGBT community.
“When it comes to Kenya, [prides] have not been done in the past for very many reasons. So for the American embassy to go out to do it is not good and can be really damaging,” Wanja Muguongo, executive director of UHAI, the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative, told Gay Star News.
“Any kind of activism can hurt. It can be dangerous. But the danger must be something that is decided upon by that community and that is what I have a problem with in this case.”
A recent U.S. government report on Human Rights in Kenya noted that “societal discrimination based on sexual orientation was widespread and resulted in loss of employment and educational opportunities” and that “violence against the LGBT community also occurred”.
Gay sex is illegal in the country with penalties including five to 14 years imprisonment.
In May, Kenya’s National Human Rights Commission urged the government to legalise homosexuality due to LGBTI people suffering “numerous human rights violations on the basis of their sexual behaviour and orientation”.