Kenya’s High Court Upholds a Ban on Gay Sex – Smart Media Magazine

Kenya’s High Court Upholds a Ban on Gay Sex


NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s High Court on Friday upheld laws that criminalize gay sex, declining to join the handful of nations that have recently abolished a prohibition imposed by Britain during the colonial era.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the court, announced in a courtroom packed with activists who wanted to see the laws overturned, keeps Kenya aligned with most of Africa. Anti-gay laws and conservative cultural mores remain prevalent across most of the continent. In addition to the threat of prosecution, discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are common.

“A sad day for the rule of law and human rights,” said Eric Gitari, a co-founder of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a Kenyan civil rights group, who was one of the petitioners in the case. He said he and others would appeal the ruling.

Téa Braun, director of the Human Dignity Trust, an international gay rights advocacy group, noted in a statement that Kenya’s constitution guarantees human dignity and freedom from discrimination.

Yvette Cheptoo, 18, a student in Nairobi, said she thought the ruling would have little effect on how gay people are viewed. “The discrimination will still be there because being homosexual in our African traditions is unacceptable,” she said. “Most churches and religions in Africa are against it.”

But she said the rights of all people should be recognized, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity, reflecting the same kind of generational divide in attitudes seen in many parts of the world.

“Since these are our friends and loved ones, I’d like to see them enjoy equal rights just like any other Kenyan,” she said, adding that she considers Kenya a country that embraces equality for all.

A coalition of Kenyan L.G.B.T. activists that had been spearheading the suit to overturn the laws, along with local lawyers, argued that the Kenyan Constitution guarantees that the “state shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground,” including sex.

But the advocates contend that the state and some Kenyans have engaged in systematic discrimination, stigma and violence against gay people.

David Kuria, a human rights researcher who was among the petitioners, said he had wanted the judges to strike down the laws so that “L.G.B.T. persons will be able to live without fear of violence, or the fear of being fired from their workplace.”



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