High Court rejects plea to make gay sex legal in Kenya

25 Mai, 2019, 02:23 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Tears flowed freely in a high courtroom in Kenya on Friday after a case seeking to overturn a law criminalising same-sex relationships was dismissed.

Kenya's National Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission says it has dealt with 15 prosecutions under the penal codes in 2018, with no convictions.

Same-sex relations have been banned since the British colonized Kenya in the late 19th century.

In 2016, LGBT rights activists filed a case with Kenya's High Court saying that homosexual relations should be decriminalised.

The judges rejected claims that the colonial-era law violated the new constitution, which guarantees equality, dignity and privacy.

For 28-year-old gay rights activist and gospel singer Joji Baro, the memories of discrimination, physical attacks, arbitrary arrests and being disowned by family for coming out are still too fresh, and he said that even if the court had ruled to lift the ban, he wouldn't have gone home.

"Acknowledging cohabitation among people of the same sex, where they would ostensibly be able to have same-sex intercourse, would indirectly open the door for (marriage) of people of the same sex", said the judgment read in part by Justice Roselyn Aburili. She said the ban on same-sex relationships "sends a risky signal to broader society and encourages hostility and even violence against LGBT individuals".

"We are not persuaded by the petitioners that the offenses against them are overboard", one of the judges said, according local media. Most assaults are not reported because people don't have confidence that police will protect them, activists say.

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Same-sex relationships are a crime in more than 70 countries around the world, nearly half of them in Africa.

The ruling on Friday will reinforce perceptions of Kenya's courts as being conservative on issues of sexuality, but other recent rulings in favor of LGBT rights had brought activists a degree of hope before the High Court decision.

Some in Kenya, however, praised the decision as a strike against what they called "sexual perversion". "We can not be another Sodom and Gomorrah", Catholic bishop Alfred Rotich told Reuters at the courthouse, as proponents held signs saying "homosexuality is an abomination".

The groups that launched the legal challenge against the anti-gay laws said they plan to appeal Friday's court judgement to a higher court.

The activist who filed the first petition against the laws in 2016, Eric Gitari, told The Associated Press after Friday's decision that "we are anxious that this is going to embolden people who do not like LGBT people in Kenya and give them justification to act arbitrarily in harming people".

Christian and Muslim groups support the law and the attorney general has argued that decriminalizing gay sex could lead to legalizing same-sex marriage.

Resistance to gay rights exists at the top of Kenya's politics, however. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told CNN a year ago during an interview that LGBTQ rights were "of no major importance" to Kenyans. The apprehension of increased violence is very reasonable.

"The trend across the Commonwealth and the world is already clear: these laws have no place in a constitutional democracy and they must go".

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