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Kenyan Chief Justice Willy Mutunga: 'Gay Rights are Human Rights' - VIDEO


Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin comments on a surprising video that turned up on YouTube this week featuring Dr. Willy Mutunga, the Chief Justice of Kenya, declaring "gay rights are human rights". The speech was given at a groundbreaking ceremony for FIDA Uganda, a Ugandan organization of Women Lawyers.

Says Mutunga in the video:

The other frontier of marginalization is the gay rights movement. Gay rights are human rights. Here I’m simply confining my statement to the context of human rights and social justice paradigm, and avoiding the controversy that exists in our constitutions and various legislation. As far as I know, human rights principles that we work on, do not allow us to implement human rights selectively. We need clarity on this issue within the human rights movement in East Africa, if we are to face the challenges that are spearheaded by powerful political and religious forces in our midst. I find the arguments made by some of our human rights activists, the so-called “moral arguments” simply rationalizations for using human rights principles opportunistically and selectively.

Writes Burroway:

The Chief Justice’s speech in Uganda is interesting for three reasons.

First, his call for recognizing that “gay rights are human rights” actually pre-dates an identical declaration from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by two full months.

Secondly, the woman wearing lavender you see seating herself at the beginning of the video is Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, who played an important role in reviving the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in October.

And finally, Uganda and Kenya close neighbors, sharing a common history as part of Britian’s East African colonies, and they maintain extensive political and economic ties. Much of Uganda’s imports and exports flow through the Kenyan port of Mombasa, and the two countries are part of a larger emerging common market, the East African Community. The situation for LGBT people in Kenya is generally much better than in Uganda, although there have been instances of mob violence against suspected gay people in recent years.


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  1. Clearly, the obviously concerted efforts of Britain and the US to advance LGBT rights are having an effect on developing countries. He pre-dates Hillary, but obviously this has been on the diplomatic agenda globally (under the radar) for quite a while. I would guess since the suggestion of Uganda's Kill the Gays bill.

    But Obama haters will probably pile on anyway.

    Posted by: Paul R | Feb 1, 2012 11:57:09 AM

  2. cool

    Posted by: say what | Feb 1, 2012 12:15:40 PM

  3. This is just great. Hopefully there are others beginning to heed his words in Africa.

    Posted by: E. | Feb 1, 2012 12:25:03 PM

  4. I admire Justice Kutunga's courage but I fear that the backlash could endanger his life.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Feb 1, 2012 1:01:22 PM

  5. I find it amusing that whenever an African American(or African in this case) speaks negatively about gays and gay rights, you can't keep people away from the post talking about how hypocritical they are and blah blah blah. But when an (African)American speaks up for gay's like crickets in the thread.

    Posted by: JP | Feb 1, 2012 1:05:51 PM

  6. The Justice isn't much of a public speaker - but I hung on every word.

    Posted by: Glenn I | Feb 1, 2012 1:25:14 PM

  7. @JP I couldn't agree more!

    Posted by: Willie | Feb 1, 2012 2:04:11 PM

  8. jp

    sadly you are correct though i suspect many of those are a single racist GOProud person posting under multiple IDs

    Posted by: say what | Feb 1, 2012 2:12:49 PM

  9. JP said it best.

    Posted by: Asher | Feb 1, 2012 2:14:42 PM

  10. @JP I wish I could believe that this speech was not prompted by the pressure being applied by the West in the form of threats to deny aid to African countries that continue with outrageously homophobic policies.....but I don't. Not really.

    And I think the reason people jump on blacks who make homophobic statements or engage in grossly homophobic actions is because of the hypocrisy involved when a group that wants to hold everyone else to a high standard when it comes to their own issues of discrimination and is quick to shout racism at the slightest provocation.....nevertheless seems to have no problem with other groups being discriminated against.

    You are either about principal or you are not....both as a group and as an individual....and any individual or group who only cares about principal when they themselves are victimized is not generally going to have a lot of credibility or get a lot of sympathy from anyone.

    Posted by: Rick | Feb 1, 2012 3:49:35 PM

  11. a post about "blacks" = Rick's chance to show us all what a racist he is.

    what RICK cannot do, however, is provide a URL to his own page or video where he shows us what a strong empowered masculine gay Out man he is.

    because he's not one. it's sad when the gay sons of racist anti-gay bigots become anti-gay and racist bigots themselves.

    JP, you nailed it brother. posts like this make GOProud wannabes upset because "hating blacks" is one of the only ways they can bond with the families that don't love them.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Feb 1, 2012 3:55:55 PM

  12. A step in the right direction...I am moved by this...

    Posted by: George F | Feb 1, 2012 5:47:31 PM

  13. Mutunga's doctorate is from Canada's Osgoode Hall; I have to wonder if that's a vote for Canada's higher education system over that of Great Britain (after all, Robert Mugabe's multiple mail-in PhDs from King's College don't appear to have mellowed him any). But really, all credit to Dr. Mutunga. With the appointment of credible, principled people like this to the bench, I look forward to finally having the chance to read some decent African jurisprudence in the coming decades.

    Posted by: Karel | Feb 1, 2012 6:20:26 PM

  14. The voice of Kenyan Chief Justice Willy Mutunga saying that gay rights are human rights is an important addition to the chorus of world leaders calling for equality.

    Posted by: Jack | Feb 1, 2012 9:02:34 PM

  15. This statement has nothing to do with any external pressure, under the radar or otherwise. Dr Mutunga has a strong human rights background and realises that human rights are indivisible. He was an ally long before he went into public life, in fact it was his law firm that drew up the Kenya Gay and Lesbians Association charter over ten years ago. Later, while running the Ford foundation he committed a large sum of grant money to gay issues. All this was widely known before his appointment but he had overwhelming support and even though some fringe elements (funded by American right wing churches) attempted to fight him during his confirmation hearings. FYI, the deputy chief justice, is a woman whose PhD thesis was about why the criminal code that outlaws gay sexual intercourse needs to be amended. At her confirmation hearing she reiterated that her thesis covered a subject that has been long overdue and that “gay & lesbian rights are human rights”.
    If anything, statements from Western governments invoke a sense of neo-colonisation and trigger knee-jerk reactions from could-be allies. Hell, even I was irritated by Hillarys lecture....sorry I meant speech. As one Minister put it, “we know the colour of your sheets America, and they are certainly not white”.

    Posted by: Kenyan | Feb 2, 2012 9:27:55 AM

  16. Courage.

    Posted by: Ted | Feb 2, 2012 9:31:15 AM

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