Homosexuality remains illegal in Kenya as court rejects LGBT petition

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Kenya’s Penal Code, which criminalises same-sex activity, will remain intact following a High Court ruling which rejected a petition calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the country.

LGBT activists in Kenya were hopeful that their country would join an emerging trend in Africa. Earlier this year, Angola decriminalised homosexuality while Mozambique did so in 2015. In June, the Botswana High Court will hand down its verdict in a decriminalisation case that has the public support of the country’s president.

The long-anticipated ruling in Kenya had drawn a large crowd to the Milimani High Court in Nairobi, with hundreds of people, mostly members of the local LGBT community and their allies, queuing to get in to the packed court room. They were greatly disappointed by the negative ruling, while other Kenyans on Twitter expressed their excitement that the Court had decided to protect “morality”.

The unanimous decision of the three-judge bench as read out by Judge Charles Mwita was that

The Nairobi ruling followed two petitions filed in 2016 by three Kenyan LGBT organisations: the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and Nyanza, Rift Valley and Western Kenya Network. The petitions asked the court to declare sections of the Penal Code unconstitutional.

The Kenyan Penal Code, which dates back to the British colonial period, holds liable to imprisonment any person involved in “unnatural offences” or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” (up to 14 years), and any males involved in “indecent practices” (up to five years)

A ruling on the petitions was supposed to be issued in February 2019, but was postponed at the last minute. In the meantime, Kenyan LGBT activists and their allies mounted a strong campaign using the hashtag #Repeal162 to mobilise support.

The key argument of the petition was that sections of the Penal Code violated rights enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution. These included the right to privacy, freedom of expression, human dignity, the right to health, and the right to protection against discrimination.

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