In Kenya, even some health workers who provide services to men who have sex with men are homophobic, LGBT activist Rachel Mandel said.
Mandel, a former employee for the International Center for Reproductive Health, spoke to 12 professors and graduate students in Luce Hall Wednesday about the difficulties of advocating for gay rights in Kenya through public health organizations.
While employees of these organizations aim to improve health standards for local communities, Mandel said often the employees do not support their patients’ sexual orientations and act in homophobic ways.
“The whole gay rights thing has a whole different place there than it does here,” she said.
Part of the problem, Mandel said, is the large chasm between what the administrators of non-profit organizations think is happening on the ground, and what is actually taking place.
Despite the organizations’ policies on equal treatment for patients, many employees at the two organizations Mandel worked for were “incredibly” homophobic, she said.
“The first time that I went I had tour of city of Mombasa by a staff member of ICRH,” she said. “At one point during the car ride he talked about homosexuality and referred to it as a psychological distortion. This same employee later became the head of the [Men who have sex with men] project.”