I have long believed that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, should have the right to be who they are, wherever they are.
It’s a view that’s shared by many around the world, but despite much progress over the years we still have far to go before the LGBT+ community can live without fear of discrimination, prosecution and violence and enjoys equal status everywhere. Sadly, too many countries continue to marginalise, stigmatise and criminalise individuals for who they choose to love.
One example is Kenya, where earlier this week the country’s High Court postponed a much-anticipated ruling on LGBT+ discrimination until May. I hope that the next few months will give the LGBT+ community more time to continue making its compelling case against discrimination and for inclusion before the ruling takes place.
I think it’s important for Kenya’s leaders to realise that decriminalising same-sex relationships is not only the right thing to do, it also has economic and business benefits. That’s the message of the latest report from Open for Business, The Economic Case for LGBT+ Inclusion in Kenya.
The report presents compelling data showing that LGBT+ discrimination currently costs Kenya’s economy up to $1.3bn per year, as it contributes to poorer health outcomes, lower productivity and reduced income from tourism.
The report also suggests that a more LGBT+ inclusive environment would bolster Kenya’s thriving entrepreneurship community. Kenya has one of the continent’s largest high-tech start-up scenes and the evidence shows that openness and inclusion, particularly LGBT+ inclusion, creates favourable conditions for startup ecosystems to flourish.
When people with diverse backgrounds are able to freely contribute their ideas and perspectives, it provides a better environment to allow companies to innovate, build customer loyalty and brand strength. If Kenya is to achieve its economic goals laid out in the government’s Vision 2030, it would be wise to take these considerations on board.
To a lot of us, this news isn’t surprising. As a business leader, I am proud that diversity and inclusion lie at the heart of everything we do at Virgin. We embrace and value diversity and recognise the rights of our LGBT+ employees to live and work free of prejudice and discrimination. We treat everybody the same, and believe that the law should, too.
But businesses can and should do more to ensure that LGBT+ communities are protected. As global employers, traders and certainly as global advocates, we have an important role to play when it comes to standing up for LGBT+ rights, especially in the many places where those rights are still violated.
That's one of the reasons Virgin is a founding partner of Open For Business, a global coalition of leading brands concerned about the growing backlash against LGBT+ communities and spread of anti-LGBT+ legislation around the world.
As the world awaits Kenya’s High Court decision, I wish Kenya’s LGBT+ communities all the best in their tireless efforts campaigning for change.
I couldn’t agree more with Yvonne Muthoni, Program Director at Open For Business, who said: “The next three months are going to be some of the most crucial in Kenya’s path towards LGBTQ+ equality as the country is at a critical juncture between inclusion and continued discrimination. We now know that the only path forward, for the good of all Kenyans, is the path of equality.”
Head over to Open for Business to download the report and learn more.