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In Africa, homosexuality emerging as hot-button issue

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Ms. Kabeberi encouraged the prime minister to retract his statement, if only because Kenya's newly enacted Constitution does not, in fact, make homosexuality illegal. (Kenyan law merely states that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman.)

If the statement was Odinga's attempt to become popular with Kenya's powerful churches, she adds, "the wrath of the civil society is going to make him wish he wasn't popular on this issue. He should be urging Kenyans to be tolerant, instead of himself being intolerant."

While recordings of Odinga's speech have been made public online, Odinga's spokesman Dennis Onyango issued a statement saying that Odinga was misquoted.

Odinga said he intended to clarify that the Constitution was not, as alleged by opponents, going to legalize same-sex marriages.

Yet even this statement stops short of retracting the statement attributed to Odinga of calling for the arrest of gays.

A regional trend

In Uganda, where homosexuality is already illegal under British colonial-era laws, the parliament briefly debated and then withdrew a proposed bill that would have imposed lengthy sentences, and in some cases the death penalty, for homosexuals.

In Malawi, an openly gay couple was convicted in May under a colonial-era law banning "unnatural acts" and sentenced to 14 years in prison, before international pressure prompted the government to set the sentences aside.

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