LGBTQI+ in Kenya

A Supreme Court victory is both a win and a loss: In 2013, Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission was refused the right to register as a non-governmental organization. The decision was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2023 that “it would be unconstitutional to limit the right to associate, through denial of registration of an association, purely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the applicants.” However, same-sex sexual relations are still a crime in Kenya, with laws that date back to British occupation. The backlash against this decision has increased the fear and danger for the LGBTQI+ community.  Included in the program are short clips from the Kenyan lesbian film Rafiki, which was banned in Kenya but became the first Kenyan film to be screened at Cannes.

The program’s featured speaker is Esther Nelima, a legal officer and health advocate with the HIV & AIDS People Alliance of Kenya. She is a practitioner of the Sex Rights Africa methodology for educating leaders and the public to be accountable for their attitudes around sexual health. Esther Nelima argues that people have the right to express their feelings but not to harm others’ rights. She notes that intersex persons have been recognized as a third gender in Kenya, and that this starts to open a space for other sexualities. The interview was conducted by Diana Wanyonyi and  the film clips were excerpted from the trailer for “Rafiki”, as found on the Toronto International Film Festival website.

WINGS: Women’s International News Gathering Service has been covering the global women’s movement and related issues for community radio since 1986. WINGS series producer is Frieda Werden. WINGS may be contacted via: [email protected].

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