A Kenyan judge has temporarily lifted the ban on Wanuri Kahiu’s “Rafiki,” paving the way for the LGBT love story – which premiered in Cannes – to be submitted for the foreign-language Oscar race. In her ruling, Judge Wilfrida Okwany said Friday she was “not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that its moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film.” She added that “one of the reasons for artistic creativity is to stir the society’s conscience even on very vexing topics such as homosexuality,” which, she noted, “did not begin with ‘Rafiki.’”
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. Government authorities did not effectively enforce many of these provisions, and discrimination against women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons; individuals with HIV/AIDS; persons with disabilities; persons suspected of witchcraft; and certain... Expand
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. Government authorities did not effectively enforce many of these provisions, and discrimination against women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons; individuals with HIV/AIDS; persons with disabilities; persons suspected of witchcraft; and certain ethnic groups was a problem. There was also evidence that some national and local government officials tolerated, and in some instances instigated, ethnic violence. The law criminalizes homosexual activity.
The constitution does not explicitly protect LGBT persons from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The penal code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which is interpreted to prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity and specifies a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. A separate statute specifically criminalizes sex between men and specifies a maximum penalty of 21 years’ imprisonment. Police detained persons under these laws, particularly suspected sex workers, but released them shortly afterward. Statistics presented in the National Assembly in March indicated police had opened files on 595 “unnatural offenses” cases since 2010, including 49 in 2014. According to a 2014 report issued by the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, between 2012 and 2014 there were eight prosecutions of gay men on indecency charges.
LGBT organizations reported police more frequently used public order laws (e.g., disturbing the peace) than same-sex legislation to arrest LGBT individuals. Police frequently harassed, intimidated, or physically abused LGBT individuals in custody.
Authorities permitted LGBT advocacy organizations to register and conduct activities. There were reports, however, that some organizations registered under modified platforms to avoid being denied registration by the government.
Legal efforts by Mbugua, born Andrew Mbugua, to change her legal name and gender identity continued.
Violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals was widespread. According to a report by journalist Denis Nzioka during the year, LGBT individuals were especially vulnerable to blackmail and rape by police officers and individuals who used LBGT websites to locate victims. LGBT individuals were especially vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, and discrimination in employment, occupation, education, and housing. Human rights and LGBT rights organizations noted that victims were extremely reluctant to report abuse or seek redress. According to a 2011 study, The Outlawed Amongst Us, by the Kenya Human Rights Commission, 89 percent of LGBT individuals who revealed their sexual orientation were disowned by family and friends. There were reports of forced “medical examination” of LGBT individuals by the police and of forced medical treatment or exorcism to “treat” LGBT individuals.
During the year an “antigay” caucus was formed in parliament, although its only action was to inquire why the government had not taken stronger action against LGBT individuals and organizations. The National Assembly majority leader stated that homosexuality was as serious an issue as terrorism but resisted calls for new anti-LGBT legislation. Several NGOs conducted anti-LGBT political campaigns, including one that announced a drive to collect one million signatures on a petition against homosexuality. While these campaigns resulted in scattered demonstrations, they did not attract widespread support.
Source: U.S. Department of State's  Human Rights Report
A battle in Kenya’s courts to throw out a British colonial-era law criminalizing gay sex has been reinvigorated after India scrapped similar legislation in a landmark ruling last week, LGBT rights campaigners said on Wednesday. Homosexuality is taboo in the east African nation and the persecution of sexual minorities is rife. Under sections of Kenya’s penal code, gay sex - or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” - is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
An eight-part podcast series looking into the experiences of “queer Africans living, loving, thriving and surviving on the continent and in the diaspora” recently hit the virtual world. Titled AfroQueer, the weekly series covers topics such as law, migration, film, race, censorship, family and sex. The series is put together by an African queer-focused digital media organization None on Record. Selly Thiam, the series’ executive producer, explains why a podcast was the chosen medium. “We wanted to tell more stories and didn’t really want to do it through video, which can be really time-consuming. And because a lot of us [at None on Record] consume a lot of podcasts, it was kind of just an organic idea to do [it] this way.” Aida Holly-Nambi, None on Records’ arts and culture director, is one of the series’ producers and reporters. “The beauty of podcasts is that, when it comes to consuming queer African stories, there is a safety in being able to listen privately through your headphones without people knowing what you’re listening to. So, for those of us [who are in places] where safety is a concern.”
Kenya is beginning to recognize people who identify as intersex, meaning they are born with genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs that don’t fit the typical definitions of male or female. A major step came recently when a government body, the Registrar of Societies of Kenya, acknowledged intersex people as a society. Despite the step, intersex Kenyans say they battle prejudice and stigma related to their sexual orientation. Ryan Muiruri says he is intersex and has faced challenges since the day he was born 28 years ago.
Approximately 600 people showed up for the first pride event held at one of the world's largest refugee camps. The Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya held its first LGBTQ pride event on Saturday, but now the event’s organizers are in fear for their lives. After the event, which organizers said drew approximately 600 people, threatening messages were “pinned all over the camp on notice boards,” according to Mbazira Moesa, a Ugandan refugee and one of the event’s organizers.
A group of LGBT refugees have been attacked and been sent death threats after they held a Pride event in their refugee camp. A group of refugees have faced physical violence and death threats from other camp members following the first Pride parade in the camp at the weekend. Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp is home to many LGBT refugees who have fled their home countries due to fear of homophobic persecution.
When Kenyan feminist blogger Peps was growing up in Nairobi in the first years of the 2000s, LGBTI people didn’t exist. At least, it didn’t seem like it. There were no out gay people on her favorite TV shows, or in her neighborhood, and being gay simply wasn’t a topic of conversation with her family. “It was mentioned once in a while in high school, but I never thought of myself as gay,” she says. “I just thought maybe everyone felt like that.”
The mere fact that one identifies as male or female is something most people take for granted. But for some people gender identity is a thorny issue, especially for those who find it hard to fit in what society classifies as ‘normal’. This is because society has adamantly refused to accept that they exist. Such is the life of 14-year-old Roy*. He lives in the farthest corner on the second floor of a six-storey building in Eastleigh. When he wants to talk about anything that bothers him, his mom tells his three-year-old sister to watch the door so no one eavesdrops on the conversation. This is exactly what happened during our interview. Once she takes her position, Roy’s mother Njeri* begins to narrate how doctors messed up her son.
In most African countries, LGBTI rights are either limited or nonexistent. In East Africa, however, the LGBT community is rising up to challenge homophobic attitudes and laws. This February saw the Kenyan LGBT community reach a historic milestone: a Kenyan court began hearing arguments in a case that seeks to repeal laws criminalizing gay sex. The laws were introduced in Kenya in 1897, when the country was under British rule. People convicted of a violation face up to 14 years in prison.
Wanuri Kahiu made a splash with her Sundance sci-fi short “Pumzi,” a haunting parable about a world without water. Her LGBT love story, “Rafiki,” which premieres in Un Certain Regard, was banned in her home country just after it became the first Kenyan film selected by Cannes. Kahiu talks about the importance of being a fun and frivolous African filmmaker.
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