A top Kenyan leader has said that homosexuality in the country is as bad a problem as terrorism – but claimed that existing laws are tough enough.
Aden Duale, from President Uhuru Kenyatta's ruling Jubilee coalition, said in response to MPs demanding harsher laws that legal sanctions did not need to be stepped up.
Legislator Alois Lentoimaga asked: "Can't we just be brave enough, seeing that we are a sovereign state, and outlaw gayism and lesbianism, the way Uganda has done?"
In February, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill criminalising homosexuality in the country, prompting some international donors to suspend aid.
The bill will see those found guilty of “homosexuality” sentenced to 14 years in jail.
Duale, who speaks on behalf of the Kenyan government in the assembly, said: "We need to go on and address this issue the way we want to address terrorism.
"It's as serious as terrorism. It's as serious as any other social evil," he said.
He was referring in particular to a recent spate of attacks, which were carried out by al Qa’ida-linked Somali Islamist militants in retaliation for Kenya's intervention in neighbouring Somalia.
But Duale said the Kenyan constitution and the penal code already had sufficient anti-gay provisions, denying the government was reluctant to tighten such laws for fear of losing international aid.
He said 595 cases of homosexuality had been investigated in Kenya since 2010, when a new constitution was adopted, and courts had convicted or acquitted the accused, while police had found no organisations openly championing homosexuality in violation of the law.
"We do not need to go the Uganda way, we have the constitution and the penal code to deal with homosexuality, and so this debate is finished, we will not be enacting any new tougher laws," Duale told Reuters.
Homosexuality is broadly taboo in Africa and illegal in 37 countries. Fear of violence, imprisonment and loss of jobs means few gays in Africa are open about their sexuality.
Kenya's penal code says any person "who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" is guilty of a felony and can be jailed for 14 years.
Anti-gay groups have emerged in Kenya after Nigeria and Uganda toughened up laws against homosexuals.
One of these groups, The Save Our Men Initiative, has said it is launching a "Zuia Sodom Kabisa" campaign, meaning "prevent Sodom completely" in Swahili, to "save the family, save youth, save Kenya".
Nigeria has outlawed same-sex relationships. Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh has said homosexuals are "vermin" and must be fought like malaria-causing mosquitoes.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content