A few days ago, Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of an LGBTQ+ rights group. The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) which launched its case in 2013, – finally, its application to be registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO) was approved.
The Supreme Court’s ruling stated –
Given that the right to freedom of association is a human right, vital to the functioning of any democratic society as well as an essential prerequisite enjoyment of other fundamental rights and freedoms, we hold that this right is inherent in everyone irrespective of whether the views they are seeking to promote are popular or not”.
Via the hashtag SayNoToLGBTQinKENYA, Kenyans who did not approve the ruling have since taken to social media.
In Kenya, homosexuality is still criminalized and punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment under Section 162 and 165 of the Kenyan Penal Code. Additionally, discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is prevalent, and the group faces significant social stigma, harassment, and violence.
One major barrier to LGBTQ rights in Kenya is deeply ingrained cultural and religious beliefs that view homosexuality as immoral and unnatural. These beliefs are often reflected in laws and policies that criminalize same-sex relationships and discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. This means simply that they can not be themselves no matter which law is passed or organization fights for their rights.
Making the public embrace the LGBTQ+ community is a difficult and slow process. it will require significant cultural and societal changes, as well as political and legal reform. Is there hope for progress?
In 2019, Botswana decriminalized homosexuality, and there have been increasing efforts to challenge discriminatory laws and attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals in other African countries as well.
South Africa is the only country on the continent to have legalized same-sex marriage, there is still a long way to go for many African countries including Kenya to fully embrace LGBTQ+ rights.