Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina: "I am homosexual"

Binyavanga Wainaina    Photo by Nightscream, Wikimedia Commons Binyavanga Wainaina won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing

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Leading Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina has come out to say he is gay, making him one of the most high-profile Africans to do so.

He made the disclosure in an article entitled: I am a homosexual, mum, coinciding with his 43rd birthday on 18 January.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya and many other African states.

His statement comes amid a fierce debate about gay rights in several African countries.

Start Quote

Of course my friends knew, but I had been toying with how useful it would be to make a public statement for close to eight months”

End Quote Binyavanga Wainaina

Nigeria has recently passed legislation tightening restrictions on homosexual groups, while Uganda's president has blocked a similar bill.

Mr Wainaina has strongly criticised Nigeria's anti-gay law, saying it "shames us all".

His decision has drawn mixed reaction among Kenyans on social media.

Some people have praised him for being courageous while others have warned that he could face a backlash, says the BBC's Caroline Karobia in the capital, Nairobi.

'Lost chapter'

"Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this," Mr Wainaina wrote in the article published first on the Africa is a Country and the Chimurenga Chronic websites.

"Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum. And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear. 'I am a homosexual, mum,'" he wrote.

Mr Wainaina's article was styled as a "lost chapter" from his 2011 memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place.

"Of course my friends knew, but I had been toying with how useful it would be to make a public statement for close to eight months," he told the GlobalPost news website on Monday.

He won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story, Discovering Home.

Gay and lesbian people risk a jail-term of up to 10 years if they are convicted of homosexual acts in Kenya.

Most religious groups in Kenya and other African countries are strongly opposed to homosexuality, saying it is un-African.

Human rights groups are meanwhile campaigning for anti-homosexual laws to be overturned.

Map showing gay rights in Africa

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