Kenya, like most of Africa, treats homosexuality with up to a 14-year jail sentence, but in recent years LGBTQ advocates have become increasingly vocal. And the government has also become more understanding of gay rights and the many plights in the community.
This opportunity has led an activist movement to challenge the ruling and they are currently involved in a court case seeking to decriminalize gay sex in Kenya. In addition to that, they will also be allowed to make submissions based on a recent decision by India’s top court to overturn a ban on gay sex, a Kenyan court said recently.
India’s supreme court on Sept. 6 scrapped a colonial-era law that punished gay sex with up to 10 years in jail, raising hopes among activists worldwide, including in Africa, for similar reforms elsewhere. The constitutional division of Kenya’s High Court will hear submissions from both parties on Oct. 25 on the relevance of India’s decision to Kenya, given that both countries have shared the law — dating back to the days of British colonial rule — that criminalizes “sexual acts against the order of nature.”
Like Nigeria, homosexuality is taboo across much of Africa and gay people face discrimination or persecution. Opponents of decriminalizing gay sex in Kenya say India’s decision was flawed and they will ask the Kenyan court to disregard it.
“Kenyan courts are bound only by decisions of higher courts in Kenya, but decisions of foreign courts can be persuasive. They don’t have to be adopted,” said Charles Kanjama, a lawyer representing parties against decriminalization.
Supporters of decriminalization say the current ban is being used daily to discriminate against LGBTQ people, making it harder for them to get a job or promotion, rent housing or access health and education services. Due to a lack of legal protection, activists say sexual minorities are routinely abused, assaulted by mobs, raped by police or vigilantes, or enslaved by criminals.