'Justice denied' as Kenya high court postpones ruling on same-sex relations

An LGBT activist wears a badge as he attends a court hearing in the Milimani high Court in Nairobi in Nairobi, Kenya. February 22, 2019. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

An LGBT activist wears a badge as he attends a court hearing in the Milimani high Court in Nairobi in Nairobi, Kenya. February 22, 2019. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

The postponement on Friday of the much-anticipated ruling by the Kenyan high court — on whether or not consensual same-sex relations should be decriminalised — has been met with disappointment.

The challenge to the constitutionality of section 162 of the Penal Code — which carries a maximum 14-year prison sentence for those convicted of same-sex relations — was brought before the court by Kenyan human rights activists. The ruling has been postponed to May 24 in order to give judges more time to consider evidence.

Solomon Gichira is the acting general secretary of the Pembizo Christian Council, which works with “the black sheep of the Christian church as well as faith leaders who have never been exposed to LGBTIQ people or the issues they face to show them why LGBTIQ rights are human rights”.

Describing the postponement as “disappointing”, Gichira said: “This is something that we have been waiting for for quite a while. It keeps us even more anxious, because we are not sure of what is playing out behind the scenes. After it taking so long for us to get a ruling date and then, on the day we were expecting that ruling, to hear there’s a postponement ... that throws you off balance.”

Gichira added that the mood on the ground among queer Kenyans “and us, their allies” was one of “anxiety and suspicion”.

“This postponement creates room for people to be put in situations in which they don’t belong,” he said, referring to the harassment and violence and “denial of employment” queer Kenyans are often subjected to. “An additional day under the same regime is just too long a time for anyone to be comfortable with.”

Gichira added that it was anticipated that public meetings held by politicians over the next few days would “also stir up a lot of homophobic emotions and that puts queer people here in a very precarious situation”.

“So, yes, the mood is not good. The mood is not good. I, personally, I can wait [for the ruling]. But I don’t think it is good for most of the queer people and their allies out here. Because so many times we are on the receiving end, and all we have is the law. And when the law is delayed, that means justice is denied.”

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail&Guardian

Carl Collison

Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa. Read more from Carl Collison

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