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Kenyan religious leaders' views on same-sex sexuality and gender nonconformity

Kenya's Constitution enshrines human rights for sexual and gender minorities. How do the views of Kenyan religious leaders interact with these rights?

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Religion plays an important role in framing the public discourse on sexuality, especially in countries where religion fully permeates social life. We explored the perspectives of Kenyan religious leaders on sexual and gender diversity in their country’s specific context. A total of 212 Catholic, Islamic, and Protestant leaders from urban centers and rural townships completed a self-administered questionnaire specifically developed for this study. The leaders’ perspectives were predominantly negative. Limited acceptance was conditional on sexual minorities not engaging in same-sex practices or seeing such practices as sinful. A substantial minority (37%) endorsed the use of violence for maintaining social values, especially regarding homosexuality and gender nonconformity. The majority of religious leaders agreed on the difference between civil law and religious doctrine. Human rights principles enshrined in Kenya’s Constitution were considered to be applicable to sexual and gender minorities. Decriminalization of same-sex sexuality was seen as against one’s religion. Perspectives were less negative if leaders were familiar with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. Interventions that promote intergroup contact could be effective in changing religious leaders’ mind-sets and advancing human rights and health for sexual and gender minorities.

Andrew Zapfel, Senior Associate of Health at Palladium, contributed to this article in The Journal of Sex Research. To read the full article, please click here