Of Africa’s 54 countries, 34 of them criminalize consensual same-sex sexual encounters, mostly thanks to American evangelicals and British-era colonial laws. Kenya, for example, currently criminalizes gay sex with 14 years in prison, but a case currently in front of the country’s High Court could potentially repeal the Kenya anti-gay laws and create a ripple effect to overturn similar anti-LGBTQ laws across the continent.
The case is a three-day hearing challenging parts of Kenya’s penal code which criminalize “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature,” “indecent practices between males,” and men having “any act of gross indecency with another male person.” Opponents of these laws say they contradict Kenya’s constitution which promises universal protection from discrimination and violence.
Hornet has launched the Decriminalize LGBT campaign in an effort to raise awareness about such laws and to support ongoing decriminalization efforts around the world.
Njeri Gateru, co-founder and legal head of Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), agrees that the laws should be repealed. He asked Kenya’s attorney general what “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” was. The attorney general said it includes “any sexual act that does not lead to procreation.”
However, Gateru argues, that would include “oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, sex while you’re pregnant, sex if you don’t have a uterus, sex if your sperm count is low.” And yet, the “carnal knowledge” laws are only ever used to prosecute homosexuals.
According to CNN, a 2014 report by Kenya’s parliament found the Kenyan government prosecuted 595 cases of homosexuality between 2010 and 2014.
Furthermore, the mere existence of anti-gay laws leaves Kenya’s LGBTQ citizens open to various abuses including harassment, assault, eviction, unlawful termination and so-called “corrective rape.” LGBTQ victims are encouraged not to go to police, lest they get thrown in jail themselves just for being gay. Anti-LGBTQ assailants often go unpunished.
The Kenyan Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF), an anti-gay religious group, supports the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws, stating that they reflect the will of a country where 84.8% of citizens identify as Christian.
The KCPF, NGLHRC and two other local LGBTQ advocacy groups attended the High Court hearings during February and March at the Milimani Court House in Nairobi. The judges will reveal the date of their decision on April 26.
One gay native named B. Maina isn’t optimistic. Maina said, “We’ve been stigmatized for so long, politically, socially, economically and religiously. The law is not on our side.”
What do you think of the possible repeal of Kenya anti-gay laws? Sound off in the comments.
Featured image by DMEPhotography via iStock