The debate over the proposed Ugandan "kill-the-gays" bill has increased homophobia in eastern Africa as well as increasing calls to end homophobic laws and practices in those nations.
The New York Times reported on February 12th about the Kenyan police breaking up a gay wedding and the mob that had gathered to stone the guests and the couple. A number of guests were arrested, but apparently none of the mob.
“It’s culture, just culture,” said a Kenyan police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, when asked to explain the intense feelings about homosexuality. “It’s what you are taught when you are young and what you hear in church. Homosexuality is unnatural. It’s wrong.”
Mr. Kiraithe said that the planned wedding between two men had been kept a secret, but that a group of local people found out just before it was to start in Kikambala, a beach town along Kenya’s white-sand coast. A mob quickly formed, and some outraged bystanders even shouted that the people at the wedding should be burned.
“You know, down at the coast, where there are so many tourists, people tolerate a lot,” Mr. Kiraithe said, mentioning the rampant sexual tourism in which both expatriate men and women often hire lovers several decades their junior. “But this is too much. These people were nearly stoned.”
Mr. Kiraithe said that five wedding guests were arrested for unlawful behavior and that they might be subject to tests to determine if they had “illegal carnal knowledge of each other.” He could not explain why the couple who were planning to marry were not arrested, saying the reports from the scene were still arriving.
Pumza Fihlani writes about both the increase of anti-gay activity and the voices who speak out for an end to hatred and violence.
While (Human Rights Watch) describes a climate of fear in Kenya's gay community, other rights groups say the upsurge in homophobia is encouraging gay-rights campaigners to be more forceful.
Ms Mbaru says activists are rising up against homophobia.
"Many see this as unjust and have begun to co-ordinate with each other and put pressure on retrogressive societies," she says.
"When you deny people the right to be who they are, you are forcing them underground and ultimately they rebel."
Gay-rights group Behind the Mask believes there is a lack of understanding of gay issues, fuelled by misrepresentations in the press and fiery speeches by religious leaders.
"When many hear the word homosexual they immediately think of sodomy, paedophilia," says the organisation's Noma Pakade.
"They don't understand that a homosexual relationship can be a commitment between two consenting adults based on love, just as it is with heterosexuals."
Even though much of the hatred is stirred up by religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, Fihlani says, there are some religious people who are standing up for gays and lesbians.
Reverend Michael Kimundu served the Anglican Church in Mtwapa, Kenya, for 30 years.
But recently the Church expelled him because leaders found out that he headed a religious organisation called The Other Sheep, which preaches tolerance towards gay people.
"I am a preacher I should be spreading love, not hate - that is why I don't believe in treating the homosexual community with disdain," he says.
"My Church didn't want to be associated with such beliefs.
"Because of my stance I have had many people accuse me and many of the pastors I work with of being gay because we refuse to let this injustice continue."
Rev Kimundu says he has not had an income for some months, but says his sacking was a blessing.
"I'm free to minister and give counselling to whoever I want to now without worrying what conflict it will cause with my leaders," he says.
"Educating the community and breaking the myths about homosexuality is my calling."
Cabral Pinto writes an op-ed in the Daily Nation describing the debate in Kenya:
Whether what happened at Mtwapa was stage managed or real, the fact of the matter is that the forces of homophobia do not want to debate gay rights in Kenya in a civilised manner....
...Professor Makau Mutua, the brilliant Kenyan lawyer who is a distinguished professor at the Buffalo School of Law in New York, was in town this week. He gave a great public lecture entitled Sexual Orientation and Human Rights: Homophobia on Trial.
Prof Mutua made many persuasive arguments on the issue of gay rights. I point out the ones that are foundational.
He argued that the Kenyan Constitution and, indeed, the constitutional draft now being debated, protect the sexual orientation of heterosexuality and refuse to extend this protection to other sexual orientations.
Human rights activists, he suggested, should be bound by the normative obligation not to be selective in their protection and promotion of rights of all people.
Prof Mutua found the origins of homophobia from various sources, significant among them religious dogma.
He dismissed the often repeated notion that homosexuality is not African and urged the Committee of Experts not listen to what is popular, but defend the powerless from the powerful and the majority.