Defeat in Kenya didn’t reverse gay Africans’ gains

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06/03/2019

On May 24, three months late, Kenya’s High Court decided whether to legalise gay sex. Human rights advocates had hoped to watch the start of a rainbow-colored domino effect across East Africa. But commiseration replaced visions of celebration. The judges declined to retire the colonial-era law sanctioning “carnal knowledge”, declaring that it wasn’t scientifically proven that LGBT+ people were born that way. But if the judgment taught us anything, it is that LGBT+ activists must focus their attention on the court of public opinion in a country where homosexuality is commonly decried as an abomination. Just as the justices said they must interpret the constitution with respect to national values, President Uhuru Kenyatta has deferred to society in his position. So we must challenge narratives that ostracise LGBT+ people from their communities, which imply there aren’t gay colleagues or bisexual churchgoers or lesbian neighbours.

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