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Kenya High Court delay on revoking anti-gay laws disappoints activists

Tattoo of a LGBT activist is seen during a court hearing in Kenya's High Court in Nairobi
Tattoo of a LGBT activist is seen during a court hearing in Kenya's High Court in Nairobi Reuters/B. Ratner
2 min

Kenya’s LGBT community has expressed disappointment after the High Court postponed a ruling on the possible decriminalisation of homosexuality. The decision further delays the hopes of activists, who filed the petition to overturn anti-gay laws three years ago.


“To say we are disappointed would be an understatement,” the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council (NGLHRC) posted on social media.

The High Court cited a heavy case load in delaying the decision until 24 May.

“We plan to meet in April if all goes well and see whether we can come up with a decision,” said Judge Chacha Mwita, according to AFP. “You do not appreciate what the judges are going through.”

The petition calls on the high court to scrap two colonial-era sections of the penal code that criminalise homosexuality.

Article 162 of the Kenyan penal code says that any person who has carnal knowledge against the order of nature can be imprisoned up to 14 years. Bestiality is also included in this article.

Article 165 states that any male who commits “gross indecency” with another male is liable for imprisonment for five years.

Living in Kenya as a gay person is extremely difficult, Bryan, 25, told RFI, especially because he cannot show affection to his partner in public.

“You can’t touch his hands. You have to behave like he’s your brother. Even hugging for more than 30 seconds, you have to look at who’s next to you. It’s very frustrating, actually,” he said.

Revealing your homosexuality in Kenya is also dangerous, Bryan added.

“Some are raped, abused, beaten up, extorted, so it’s really unsafe” to show affection, he said.

The LGBT community had hoped that these two codes would be repealed on Friday, but are also aware that a repeal of the law will not change the views of conservative Kenyans overnight.

“But it means that it will stop them from killing us, it will stop them from attacking us in the streets, it will stop them from evicting us,” activist Yvonne Oduor told RFI.

“But [scrapping] the law is the first step.”

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