By Zoe Alsop
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
A Kenyan Web site exposing pro-choice and LGBT activists to intimidation tactics claims to be homegrown. But it has the hallmarks of a notorious U.S. site for anti-choice extremists and is registered in Georgia.
ProjectSEE, an acronym for Project Stop Exporting Evil, claims the United States and Europe brought homosexuality and abortion to Africa.
In addition to O'Toole several other prominent anti-abortion activists are listed on the site as contacts for ProjectSEE.
Michael Bray, who was jailed for four years in the 1980s for taking part in a series of bombings and arson attacks on clinics near Washington, D.C., is there, along with Horsley. The site also offers a phone number and article by Paul Cameron, an unlicensed psychologist who heads the anti-gay Family Research Institute, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Debate on abortion is intense and widespread in Kenya now as religious leaders say they'll oppose a draft constitution if a provision is kept that allows abortion if a woman's life is in danger.
Passage of the draft constitution before the next national elections in 2012 is widely regarded as a critical to the country's effort to avoid the kind of bloodshed that followed the 2007 election. The draft calls for devolution of power that would prevent the kind of winner-take-all scenario that has led to ethnic strife in the past.
Even with these high political stakes, however, general debate about abortion is less heated than in the United States and certainly steers clear of death threats and violent attacks on abortion providers and supporters.
"Kenyans are not that extreme," Odhiambo said. "Rarely do you find them supporting someone's murder. To a certain extent Kenyans allow different opinions."
For gays and lesbians, though, the implications of exposure on the ProjectSEE Web site are more serious because sexual minorities are particularly vulnerable in East Africa.
Neighboring Uganda's parliament is considering a bill that calls for death sentences for "repeat offenders" of homosexuality and anyone who knows they are HIV-positive and continue to engage in homosexual activity, among others. Stiff sentences are proposed for doctors, family members and others who failed to report homosexuality.
This March in Kenya, mobs following calls from prominent Christian and Muslim leaders attacked an HIV-testing center run by an organization that promoted HIV awareness among LGBT people. Mobs also surrounded homes of men suspected of being gay or bisexual across the coastal city of Mombasa. Men targeted by the mobs were taken into protective custody.
When they learned of ProjectSEE in early April, Kenyan LGBT rights activists went to Kenya's Communications Commission, in charge of regulating Internet content here, only to learn that Kenya had no authority over the site since it was registered in the United States. The activists made a complaint at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
The embassy's spokesman was not aware of complaint and couldn't give an immediate response.
"The sad thing is that nothing will happen until someone is killed," said David Kuria, manager of the Nairobi-based Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya.
A few weeks ago, Kuria learned that his picture had been posted on ProjectSEE beneath the label "Nairobi Shoga." Shoga is a derogatory term for a gay man in Swahili.
Threats arrived by phone and e-mail. Odd dents appeared on his car when he left it in the lot outside his house at night. Then a man came to Kuria's house and threatened him.
"The implication was that I would die," said Kuria, who has moved. "He consistently said that Jesus said the sinner, a stone has to be tied around his neck and then he has to be thrown into the sea."
One young Kenyan listed as a contact on the website told Women's eNews he felt duped by O'Toole.
Peter Bushnell, an unemployed school teacher who leads a Christian youth group, said O'Toole told him the Web site would be used to preach the gospel.
But then came O'Toole's request for Bushnell to mobilize his group to put up posters of the people shown on the site. He refused and since then O'Toole has stopped returning his phone calls.
Zoe Alsop is a freelance journalist based in Kenya.
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