Africa

Kenya LGBTI advocates fight to keep official recognition

Kenyan LGBTI rights advocates are scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, July 27, to further their quest for official government recognition of their legitimacy.

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

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

In a High Court ruling in 2015, the non-governmental National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) won the right to register, but the Kenyan registration agency balked.

Now, on appeal, it seeks to overturn the High Court ruling of 2015.

The NGLHRC issued this press release:

NGO board appeals registration order for rights organization due to ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ in name

On Thursday 27 July 2017, Kenya’s Court of Appeal will hear a challenge to a High Court decision from 2015, which ruled that the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) should be allowed to register as an official non-governmental organization (NGO).

The Non-Governmental Organizations Coordination Board had rejected the NGLHRC’s repeated requests for registration since April 2012, on the basis that rights organization’s name was “unacceptable” as Kenya’s penal code “criminalises gay and lesbian liaisons”.

The High Court disagreed. In April 2015 a three-judge bench ruled unanimously in favour of NGLHRC Executive Director and human rights lawyer Eric Gitari in the case known as Eric Gitari v Non Governmental Organizations Co-ordination Board and four others.

The progressive judgment, which was roundly praised for its reasoning, emphasised that under the Kenyan Constitution sexual orientation is protected from discrimination.

Therefore, people cannot be stripped of their basic democratic right to meet and form associations, no matter if they do not identify as heterosexual.

The High Court ruling, which ordered the registration of NGLHRC, stated:

“As a society, once we recognise that persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex are human beings … we must accord them the human rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution to all persons, by virtue of their being human, in order to protect their dignity as human as stated in Article 19(2) of the constitution of Kenya.”

The NGO board appealed this judgment, and the Court of Appeal will hear the case on Thursday.

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

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

Eric Gitari, Executive Director of NGLHRC, said:

“This is not a gay and lesbian issue. Freedom of Association – or the freedom of like-minded people to meet and self-organise – is an indispensable component of our democracy.
To roll back such a basic right for Kenyans would set a dangerous precedent and should ring alarm bells to anyone who values their basic freedoms and citizenship.

“Not allowing our organization to register officially would be in conflict with the principles of human dignity, inclusiveness, equality, human rights and non-discrimination, all of which our enshrined in the supreme law of our land: the Kenyan Constitution.

“There are no victims of the existence of our organization, only beneficiaries. We hope that fairness and justice will prevail and that our freedom of association rights will be protected.”

The work of the NGLHRC protects some of the most vulnerable citizens of Kenya from discrimination and abuse. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) passed a resolution in 2014 requiring all member states to create favourable conditions for human rights defenders working on gay and lesbian issues, among others, to help prevent the high levels of violence such communities face in Africa.

The appeal hearing will start at 9:00am on Thursday 27 July 2017 at the Court of Appeal sitting in the Supreme Court building in Nairobi.

The Attorney General, who was named in the original petition alongside the NGO Coordination Board, accepted the original High Court ruling to register NGLHRC and is not appealing it.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is a group of lawyers working to protect the members of the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer) community from discrimination, oppression and violence. Visit www.nglhrc.com for more information.

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