Activists sue to overturn Kenyan anti-gay law

Logo of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya
Logo of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya

A Kenyan LGBTI rights group has filed a lawsuit aimed at overturning the Kenyan law against same-sex intimacy between consenting adults.

The Kenyan National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) said in a statement Friday, April 15, that the case, which challenges the constitutionality of certain sections of the penal code, will be heard by the Constitutional and Human Rights Division of the High Court in the capital, Nairobi, the Associated Press reports.

The NGLHRC, a non-governmental organization, also said that it would close its offices for the coming week, after filing the suit, as a security precaution.  Most Kenyans hate or fear LGBT people, the group said, so it “will be monitoring  the security situation whilst helping to keep our team and lawyers and the community from any unprecedented events.”

The group’s statement said the law “stands in stark contrast to the Kenyan constitutional values of democracy, equality and the rule of law.”

Eric Gitari, executive director of the NGLHRC,  asked the court to strike out sections of the Penal Code criminalizing gay sex as violations of constitutional rights to equality, dignity and privacy, according to Thompson/Reuters. Its article reported further:

National Gay and Lesbian Eric Gitari, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Nation)
National Gay and Lesbian Eric Gitari, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Nation)

The law makes it socially acceptable to persecute, intimidate and blackmail sexual minorities, [Gitari] said, especially those who are afraid to come out.

“We have been dealing with a lot of cases of violence, of people beating up people because they disagree with their sexual orientation,” he said in a telephone interview, referring to some of the national commission’s legal aid cases.

“Our clients… are not willing to follow up these cases with the police because they don’t know how to explain to the police what they were doing with other men in the privacy of their bedrooms without admitting to committing offences.”

The NGLHRC last year won a court ruling (since appealed) that ordered the Kenyan government to grant it official registration.

Under existing Kenyan law, sexual activity “against the order of nature” is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but arrests are rare.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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