Police, Doctors Waste Resources on ‘Gay Non-Issue’ [opinion]

When asked about the Kenya’s government agenda for the visiting US President, President Uhuru Kenyatta last Tuesday said they have “very important” issues, such as security, to discuss and that “the gay issue is a non-issue to the people of this country”.

Meanwhile, the day before, on Monday, the President’s wife Margaret Kenyatta had been elected the chairperson of the Forum of Africa First Ladies/Spouses against Cervical, Breast and Prostate cancer. The press reported that both the First Lady and Uhuru will lead the war against cancer in Africa.

In this article, I wish to illustrate using these two clearly important issues of security and health, that the President is wrong on the “non-issue” issue. I will not touch on the usual human rights and public health arguments we have talked about ad infinitum.

Rather, I wish to focus on our use of doctors’ and police time and resources to deal with gays in this country. When a gay man is arrested, he is taken for a medical exam. These bogus medical exams that prove nothing, as you can see from the doctor’s report .

Aside from examining the anus, the regular “gay sex” test also includes HIV testing, SGPT/SGOT (blood tests that detect liver damage), VDRI (tests for syphilis) and Hepatitis B screening! Is this the most efficient and effective use of our clinical resources? Furthermore, the science behind these tests is so outdated that it’s a national shame to the Kenyan medical practice!

This is not a non-issue because medical resources would be better spent on pap smears and HPV screening for women in Kenya (it is advised for women above the age of 21 to take regular exams). How many cases of cervical cancer would be averted or detected early?

Gay people are escorted to these tests by armed police in police cars that could otherwise be on security patrols. The police officers have to wait until all the test results are out, since they have to carry along the doctor’s report. Now, the President rightly appreciates the security of the country is very important. But really, why should he take offence when visitors point out to him that his use of the existing security personnel and resources is wasteful?

True, the President relies on technical advice from the Health ministry and law enforcers. But he too has a responsibility to ask what the opportunity cost of enforcing these colonial laws is. Now they will tell him that Africa has more urgent issues to address. What they do not tell him is that Rwanda – the most efficient country in Africa – has no time for these kinds of laws. This is not how Rwanda uses its judicial officers’, the police officers’ and doctors’ time. That is why they do not criminalise homosexuality.

Mr President, please let our doctors examine and treat sick patients or at least let them offer cancer screening. If they really must examine anuses, then let them do digital rectal examination for prostate cancer for Kenyan men aged over 40 – even though the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test might be both more efficient and dignified!

David Kuria is a rights campaigner.