(UPDATE: To clarify, there will be mechanisms in the U.S. Census to count same-sex couples, but only on a state-by-state level. Same-sex marriages will not be included in the national count of married couples due to a code conflict and concern for statistical inaccuracy, and that is the point I am trying to emphasize in this post. Read more on CNN about how the Census will be accommodating same-sex couples or refer to the AP story that originally prompted my post last week.)
This is a bizarre juxtaposition.
Kenya: Homosexual activity can be punished with 14 years in jail.
USA: Any lingering laws against homosexual activity were deemed unconstitutional by Lawrence v. Texas.
Kenya: Many gay people suffer from HIV/AIDS because they know little about it.
USA: HIV/AIDS is thought of as “the gay disease” even though its spread is in no way limited to the gay community.
Kenya: The country is concerned enough about the gay community that it is going to specifically try to count gay people, knowing full well the results will not be accurate and will depend upon “gay men counting each other.”
U: The country won’t count the gay community on a national level despite people’s willingness to identify themselves because they’re worried the results will not be accurate according to federal legal definitions.
Just a reminder from my post last week:
Instead, same-sex married couples will be added into the category for unmarried partners, just as they were for the 2000 census.
But check out this article from the BBC:
Kenya is to carry out a census of its gay population in an effort to bolster the fight against HIV/Aids – despite homosexuality being against the law.
Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya’s Aids prevention programme Nascop, told the BBC it was vital that the government reached out to the gay community.
So the USA tells us that we haven’t advocated enough for our equality so they’re not going to count us, but Kenya is going out of their way to reach the gay community out of real concern for them.
I’m not saying I want homosexual behavior to be illegal, but I actually prefer the tone of the Kenyan government to the messages we often get from ours.
“Kenyans cannot actually afford to say that the gay community are isolated somewhere in the corner – they are part of our lives,” he said.
“This group must be reached with information and services so they know how to protect themselves from getting infected.”
HIV/AIDS is still a serious concern in the United States that hasn’t been properly addressed, but we’ve seen no efforts of this concern. Further, if our government (as in the Obama administration) really cares about equal rights for American LGBT folks, couldn’t the same principle be applied? Wouldn’t it make perfect sense for the U.S. Census to say, “Marriage inequality is a problem; it will be helpful to get a sense of how many same-sex couples out there identify as spouses”? I’m not trying to compare the severity of HIV/AIDS to marriage equality, but I’m embarrassed on America’s behalf that we can even make such a juxtaposition based on something as simple as counting people.
I hope Kenya’s census efforts are productive. HIV/AIDS is a scourge on our species and we continue to flounder in addressing it, in terms of education, prevention, and treatment. We can do better by our own people.