Top African writer comes out, challenges anti-gay laws

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Binyavanga Wainaina walks along a street in Nairobi. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

Award-winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina celebrated his 43rd birthday by coming out in an online essay.

Wainaina, who won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002 for his literary work Discovering Home, said he's known he was gay since the age of five, but did not have a homosexual encounter until the age of 39.

His story has sparked debate about gay rights in Africa, where it's illegal to have homosexual sex in most countries.  His native Kenya doesn't ban homosexuality outright, but has laws that prohibit sodomy. Recently, Uganda passed legislation that would put people in prison for life for homosexual acts.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday, Wainaina said he came out to help preserve his dignity.

"I came out because ... people have dignity," he said. "All people have dignity. There's nobody who was born without a soul and a spirit. There is nobody who is a beast or an animal, right?"

"Every one, we, we homosexuals, are people and we need our oxygen to breathe," he added.

Wainaina has recently been critical of African lawmakers for passing discriminatory laws, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin for his stance on gays.

As we head towards the Sochi Winter Olympics next month, much discussion has centred on Russia's anti-gay laws and the Russian president's recent comments linking gays to pedophiles.

-With files from the Associated Press

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