I believe the options I am about to offer here for LGBT individuals who want children are achievable, legal, and surprisingly, adventurous.
Option number one – and unfortunately the hardest, is adoption. Most countries allow adoption of children as it is the case here in Kenya and other East African countries. But there are some specific impediments that the law stipulates that will make anyone not fit to adopt. The Children Act No 8 of 2001, under part XII, makes provisions for adoption. The Children Adoption Regulations 2005 also provide the guidelines on the adoption process. Among those – under these laws – who absolutely cannot adopt are homosexuals.
The fact that ‘homosexuals’ are explicitly mentioned is suspect and plays to the widespread fear and misconception that if a homosexual raises a child, then that child will turn to be one. This notion has been widely challenged by studies on same-sex parents who have adopted children in various countries. In fact, it has shown that children raised in same sex homes were significantly heterosexual identifying when they grew up. In addition, same sex couples have been shown to provide better living standard - health, education, sports – to children they adopt as compared to heterosexual parents.
The caveat in this law however is one of principle than practice. Does a homosexual identify himself as such in the adoption application or does the adoption agency ask applicants whether they are homosexual or not? The several gay and lesbian persons who have managed to adopt say that this question is often not asked and they do not see the need to tell that they are gay or lesbian. Yes, you can get away with it. But then it begs the question: What happens, let’s say to those who are openly gay, for example, gay activists who appear in the media or personalities who declare on national TV they are homosexual? Surprisingly, I am yet to meet any who has wanted to adopt but I am told such persons will not be allowed to adopt.
The other way to get a child is really easy and simple – be a guardian to a child in need. Unfortunately, there are a large number of children who are in need and some with special needs. There are equally many children’s homes all caring for abandoned, abused or lost children. Some children are orphans or have been neglected by their parents or suffered one form or the other of abuse. Knowing the many eager and capable same-sex persons willing to take these children under their wings as their own, but who cannot because of what the law states, shouldn’t it be made easier for them to take and provide for these children?
Given the strong family structure, economic maintenance and support that same sex persons and couples have, it’s only justified that one answer to the perennial problem of street children or children with special needs is to allow homosexuals to adopt or be guardians to them.
Sadly, one is not allowed to take them home where this support will be regular and in a loving and caring environment. However, this does not mean that homosexuals cannot support and ‘be parents’ to these children; it means they can and should do more for such vulnerable and disadvantaged children. This can be through monthly donations of materials or paying for school fees! Likewise, under this option, same sex persons can take children of their relatives or siblings and raise them as their own providing for their needs and being parents to them. In fact, this method is the easiest and most preferred by most couples as there is already a familial tie with the child and less restrictions.
The last option is to get a child of your own the old-fashioned way. And if you are into tubes and lab things, then this is just for you.
So, can homosexuals get children in Kenya? Yes. However, it is time to reconsider lifting the restrictive measures that bar not only homosexuals but persons living with HIV, persons living with disabilities, foreign couples and many others from adopting children.