PoliticsSex & Gender

kenyan court upholds archaic same-sex relationship ban

May 24, 2019
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Send love and warmth to Kenya’s LGBTQ+ community today, as they face the disappointment of the country’s High Court upholding the ban against same-sex relationships, according to CBS News reports. Kenyan activists argue that the law is unconstitutional because it infringes on the autonomy and basic rights of gay Kenyans. People from all walks of life had hoped that history would be made today, because of the absurdity and violence of same-sex relations carrying a 14-year jail sentence. But the court ruled otherwise.

“Kenya’s High Court has relegated people in same-sex relationships in Kenya to second-class citizenship, based on the absurd claim that the penal code is not discriminatory,” said Neela Ghoshal, a senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “The Court of Appeal should revisit this ruling urgently.” It should. There is no evidence that public opinion was taken into consideration and the world is tired if marginalized communities having their livelihoods decided by people who do not represent or know anything about them.

Kenya is one of more than 40 countries around the world that inherited British anti-gay laws under colonization. According to the U.N., 70 countries still criminalize same-sex acts. India, a former colony, removed itself from that list by overturning their own colonial-era anti-gay law just last year. So it’s baffling that an African country that is so invested in forging its own legacy would choose to hold on to laws that mandate government-sanctioned homophobia.

Before the ruling, LGBTQ+ activist Eric Gitari said that a victory would have “the potential of creating a tidal wave across Africa, especially in the (countries in) Africa where the British colonial legacy of criminalization still persists.” Unfortunately, that persistence is thanks to cis-hetero patriarchs across the continent who continue to view queerness as “un-African” — considering that queer Africans exist and have been around for the longest minute, that’s just bull excrement.

Over 30 African countries still outlaw queer relationships, but the East African country made its way to the forefront of the discussion thanks to artists like Wanuri Kahiu, the writer and director of Rafiki, which was the first Kenyan film to show at the Cannes Film Festival. The lesbian love story made international news when it made history, but more so because the Kenyan government wouldn’t initially let the film play in Kenya for the week that it needed to qualify for Oscar contention. Thanks to the hard work and passionate activism of Kahiu, a Kenya court ruled to have the movie shown for a week only. Rafiki sold out every show that played that week.

Justice for LGBTQ+ Kenyans. Justice for LGBTQ+ Africans. One cannot even begin to imagine the pain associated with your government fighting for independence in every aspect of life except yours. African leaders are, ironically, the last to understand that the continent cannot thrive unless ALL of its people are free. That realization will come by fire and by force because we cannot afford to look back let alone shift even an inch in that direction. The fight is not over because those we have lost, those like Binyavanga Wainaina showed us that we could be this loud and proud and free. Aluta Continua.