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LGBT+ advocates are hopeful as Kenya is set to rule on decriminalising gay sex

As the countdown draws closer towards Friday for the much-awaited ruling by Kenya’s High Court to repeal Section 162 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes gay sex , advocates, particularly from the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), are optimistic.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) is an independent human rights institution working for legal and policy reforms towards equality and full inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in Kenya.

“We are excited and cautiously optimistic – but optimistic nonetheless,” Lelei Cheruto from NGLHRC, one of the groups petitioning the court to decriminalize gay sex, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“A positive ruling will mean sexual minorities in Kenya will have the freedom to exist. It will be a step toward their inclusion in society. We feel we have a very solid case.” Lelei Cheruto added

On Friday, 22nd February 2019, a High Court ruling in Nairobi will determine whether Kenya will join the few African countries who have crapped colonial homophobic laws or not.

According to Amnesty International’s report on Anti-Gay laws in Africa, Kenya is one of the 32 African countries where it is illegal to be gay. Under sections of Kenya’s penal code, gay sex – or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” – is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

“Hate crimes like blackmail, extortion, physical and sexual assault are common – but most are too fearful to go to the police due to their sexual orientation, say rights groups.” Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.

“There are laws in many African countries that criminalize same-sex relationships, so if we get a positive ruling in Kenya it will give hope to the continent,” said Anthony Oluoch from Pan Africa ILGA, a global charity advocating for the rights of sexual minorities.

The law against gay sex in Kenya – sections 162 and 165 – was introduced during British rule more than 120 years ago.

The Kenyan government, however, is opposed to scrapping the ban on gay sex. Backed by powerful Christian groups, they have argued during court hearings last year that it will lead to same-sex marriage.

“Kenya is an important and influential country in Africa and there has been a lot of conversation around the continent about the court case,” said Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian gay rights activist.

“It would be a huge inspiration and a morale boost to LGBT+ people across Africa. It will reinvigorate LGBT+ rights campaigns in many countries. People will feel more emboldened to talk about their sexuality and fight for their rights.” he added.

“It’s been a long journey already, but we are prepared for the road ahead – no matter how difficult it may be.” Lelei Cheruto said.

As the anticipation builds towards #Repeal162 has been trending in Kenya and parts of the African continent. We also keep our fingers crossed hoping for the best in Kenya.

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