article_example_of_gay_panic_jounalism_in_africaAn article published by Kenya’s The Star newspaper warning of “rampant” homosexuality is another example of the dangerous sensationalism that’s often found in African reports on LGBTI issues.

The story deals with comments made by Anisa Menza, the Education and Development Association Coordinator in the coastal town of Malindi.

Menza states that the number of boys in the area being “introduced” to homosexuality and drug abuse is on the rise because homosexuality is becoming more accepted.

“Many youth in this area turn to such activities in such for money. This is because they have not put effort in school. They are now looking for easy ways of making money,” she said.

Menza went on to state: “You know our male children are being lured to do such activities for them to be bought a motorbike or be given money. My worry is whether we will [have] upright men to marry our girls in future.

“Currently, irresponsible people from different communities are doing it. This has made it hard to solve the problem once and for all. The trend has made our children to think that this is a normal thing that anyone can do.”

Menza further warned that “If the government is reluctant in dealing with this evil, then we are going to loose [sic] our children,” adding that “the government and religious leaders must stand up and declare that homosexuality is illegal and sinful”.

Disturbingly, journalist Kerubo Lornah failed to offer any critical perspectives on Menza’s statements or even ask where she had sourced the statistics indicating that there is a growing “problem”.

The article, without any foundation, perpetuates the false but widespread belief in Africa that homosexuality is some kind of “trend” or “cult” and that people, and especially youngsters, can be indoctrinated into homosexuality by gays and lesbians.

Menza also confuses homosexuality with prostitution among young people. While they may engage in sex work (homosexual or otherwise) due to economic circumstances, this does not turn them into homosexuals. Under age sex work is a concern that is independent of the sexuality of the child or the gender of his or her clients.

The results of the piece are that readers are led to believe that homosexuality is a disturbing and “evil” phenomenon that is on the rise and that it is ‘out to get’ their children.

Menza is also allowed to regurgitate the absurd belief that the “rise” in homosexuality could reduce the number of available heterosexual men and could ultimately lead to a drop in the population.

These kinds of ignorant views combined with unsophisticated “gay panic” journalism help to justify the paranoid and cruel persecution of gay and lesbian people in many parts of the continent.

They also aid misguided politicians and clergy who bolster their anti-gay legislation and sermons with a claimed desire to “save” children from homosexuality.

It’s no surprise that a survey released last year found that 90% of Kenyans believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society.

Same-sex consensual sex among adults is illegal in Kenya, with penalties of between five to 14 years imprisonment. Under the 2010 Kenyan constitution, the criminalisation of homosexuality may be unconstitutional, but this has not yet been challenged in court.

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