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Former CJ Willy Mutunga asks media to highlight LGBTQ message

By Sinda Matiko December 30th, 2023 3 min read

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has urged journalists to fight for the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQ) community.

In his message, while delivering a talk at the end-year party hosted by the Entertainment and Arts Journalists Association of Kenya (EAJAK) in Nairobi, Mutunga who doubles up as an activist appeared to call out at journalists for shying away from highlighting issues considered controversial in Kenya.

He said: “The constitution provides a lot of sights of struggles that you can highlight. You can talk about land, resources, values, culture, traditional justices, and religion There are so many things that journalists if not gagged could play a major role in interrogating and historizing these issues and the debates around them.”

“You journalists have to get involved in those debates. There are a lot of debates about LGBTQIA+ demonstrations and so forth but nobody wants to look at the debate and see whether theological arguments are right, or whether the constitutional arguments are right.”

The queer community subject continues to be among social issues viewed as controversial which are never highlighted as much by the media, something the former Chief Justice finds to be very fundamentally wrong.

“There is something in Kenya that inhibits people from writing about, what Kenyans call controversial issues. I think for journalists there is nothing controversial you just have to write about it.”

Mutunga, 76, enjoyed a controversial spell as Chief Justice between 2011 and 2016.

He spotted a stud in one of his years leading to questions about his orientation.

He also once told Kenyans they did not have to prosecute all disputes in court.

“You can use elders, churches, or mosques to settle disputes. I have even been told that the people of Kitui, where I come from, are turning to witch doctors to solve some issues. Going to courts is foolish because you will lose your money to lawyers,” he said.

In a recent interview with Business Daily, Mutunga who considers himself a syncretist revisited why he chose to don a stud in public.

“There was the talk of me being gay because of an earring. I said I’m not but I’m not homophobic and if I become Chief Justice I’ll be Chief Justice of all Kenyans. I wore this earring because the ancestors asked me to and I couldn’t disobey them,” he explained.

During the speech, Mutunga urged EAJAK members to become cultural activists if they cared about the well-being of society.

“As a human rights activist for very many years, I can tell you the art is, and the artists’ movement is a new frontier for human rights because of the communication of the hidden messages, the subversive ones and I think it’s a great frontier for fighting for the rights which as Entertainment and Arts journalists you should be actively be part of,” he said.

“2Pac Shakur as a rapper addressed contemporary social issues in America. Bob Marley was a popular icon of Jamaican culture he actively fought for the legalization of marijuana. These are a few icons who were cultural activists but are probably well not known because the media was complicit in silencing some of these voices.

Before Lupita (Nyong’o)  became famous she had produced a documentary (In My Genes) about people living with albinism and their struggle with something journalists never highlighted. These are social aspects that as an Entertainment journalist you ought to actively highlight in a society where so many critical issues are being silenced.”

Same-sex relationships are considered taboo in Kenya.

In recent times, Catholic Bishops in Kenya have publicly disassociated themselves from a statement by Pope Francis that appears to approve of same-sex marriages.

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