South Africa has an openly gay Judge serving on its highest court, The Constitutional Court. The Judge, Edwin Cameron, who has written a book about his sexual orientation also happens to be HIV positive and previously served for 8 years on the country’s High Court of Appeal. That’s an anomaly for court systems on a continent; a place where homophobia is rife. Now Kenya’s Judicial Service Commission (they make recommendations to government) have nominated a pro-gay-rights chief and a deputy chief justice to the country’s courts. As Peter Anaminyi writes on The Guardian’s Comment is Free site:
Dr Willy Mutunga [in the picture above], the nominee for the chief justice position, is the current east Africa representative for Ford Foundation and was involved in facilitating the registration of a gay rights organisation. [He is also Muslim, is divorced and wears “a stud” in one ear.] As if this was not enough, Kenya’s Judicial Service Commission also went on to nominate Nancy Baraza as the deputy chief justice. What is her crime? Nancy has been outed. Not for being gay but for doing her doctoral research at Kenyatta University on gay rights. Needless to say, these nominations have generated the most intense debate surrounding any public appointment in living memory. It has forced a discussion on the issue of gay and gay-rights-affirming people and their suitability for public office.
A new constitution–passed last August–resulted in the former Chief Justice resigning and a need for new appointments. The commission’s recent hearings have been televised live. There’s tons of video of the hearings online including of commission members’ obsession with Mutunga’s earring and going on about “activist judges” (rightwing propaganda originating in the US of course). Here’s an example from NTV Kenya:
Here’s another from Citizen TV:
Not surprisingly, conservative church leaders oppose the nominations, but both the president, Mwai Kibaki, and the prime minister and ” more significantly, the people of Kenya with an 80% affirmative vote in a poll,” support Mutunga and Baraza’s nominations.
Anaminyi, writing on Comment is Free, predicts that:
What may follow in the next 18 months is a constitutional challenge to the laws that criminalise homosexuality, based on the provisions of Kenya’s new constitution, which a legal expert has argued protects gay rights and even gay marriage. This will make Kenya, which is the highest single national recipient of US aid for HIV and Aids, the continental centre for a fully inclusive, evidence-based approach to the prevention and management of HIV/Aids.
H/T: Bombastic Elements
* In case you wondered (someone asked me on Twitter), the title of this blog post is deliberate; it lampoons some members of the Commission (with their questions) as well as conversative, mainly Christian, “clerics” in Kenya.