Interviewed by Denis Nzioka, Prof. Makau Mutua, Dean in an American university, says ‘Matters of human rights and dignity are not a popularity contest. We must do what is right’. Prof. Makau Mutua is the Dean, SUNY Distinguished Professor , Floyd H. & Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar, The State University of NY, Buffalo Law School & Chair of the KHRC.
Q: You have been a vocal proponent for gay rights and have written much to defend gays. Where did this stem from?
I am a human rights thinker and advocate. It would be wrong for anybody who believes in human rights to choose to protect the rights of some human beings, and not others. I am guided by the theory of anti-subordination under which we have a normative obligation to oppose all tyranny and oppression. We shouldn’t, for example, oppose torture and support the oppression of women at the same time. This is would be logically inconsistent and theoretically indefensible. But like most Kenyans, I was raised in a homophobic world. Later in life, as I developed as an intellectual, I discovered that there was no rational or intellectually defensible reason to be homophobic. That’s how I overcame my own homophobia. I decided to write and speak up. I know my position on gays is unpopular with powerful interests in Kenya – and perhaps a majority of Kenyans. But matters of human rights and dignity are not a popularity contest. We must do what is right. But I believe the majority of Kenyans will come around to our point of view with time and education.
Q: The Constitution of Kenya, promulgated on August 2010 was welcomed and embraced by many Kenyans. One of the goodies is the Bill of Rights. Does the gay community too need to celebrate?
The new constitution is document of wonderment in many respects. The Bill of Rights is one of the most comprehensive and progressive in the world. The Constitution protects the rights of gays and lesbians in its each protection clauses. The provisions of the Penal Code that criminalize homosexuality are clearly unconstitutional, and I have no doubt that the courts will rule in favor of gay rights. Importantly, the Constitution doesn’t prohibit gay marriages or civil unions among gay people. I hope the courts will rule on this soon. It’s the international trend in any case, and it’s a matter of time before it becomes commonplace internationally. South Africa, on our own continent, allows gays marriages. We must follow suit.
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