LGBT+ groups in Kenya are “disappointed” that High Court has postponed its ruling on decriminalizing homosexuality.
Kenya’s High Court on Friday postponed a much-anticipated ruling on whether to scrap colonial-era laws which criminalise homosexuality, citing a heavy caseload.
The delay was met with dismay by Kenya’s LGBT+ community and their allies, who have been anxiously awaiting a ruling on the petition, which was filed three years ago.
The Court was due to hand down its decision today, instead, the Court put off the ruling until May 24 at 10.30am.
Journalist Halima Gikandi reported live from the Milimani Court. She said the courtroom activists, lawyers and media packed the courtroom to eagerly awaiting the decision.
Chacha Mwita, one of the judges, said: “the files are above my height… we are still working,” she also added that one of his colleagues was on leave and other members of the three-judge bench were judging multiple cases.
Gay rights organisations are asking the court to scrap two sections of the penal code that criminalise homosexuality.
Section 162 of the Penal Code states that anyone who has “carnal knowledge… against the order of nature” can be imprisoned for 14 years. Section 165 provides for a five-year jail term for “indecent practices between males.”
The petition was initially filed in 2016, and activists had been eagerly awaiting the decision, which could reverberate around Africa where several nations are grabbling with similar laws.
Activists believe that Kenya has a chance to blaze a trail in Africa where homophobia is virulent in many communities, with similar laws in over half the countries on the continent.
While convictions under the decades-old laws are rare, gay activists say the legislation is unconstitutional and fuels homophobic persecution.
Lawyer and NGLHRC (National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council) co-founder, Eric Gitari, said he nevertheless remained optimistic.
“We accepted the apology and give them more time. We have been at this thing since 2016 so three more months will not be too much wait,” said NGLHRC co-founder, Eric Gitari.
The petitioners argue that under Kenya’s 2010 constitution every person is said to be equal before the law – protection directly contradicted by the disputed sections of the Penal Code.
Those who are blackmailed, evicted, fired, expelled from school, or assaulted over their sexual orientation, are unable to access justice because it means “confessions to a crime,” said Gitari.
“For the LGBT+ community, a lot of individuals who came here were super excited and anticipating the ruling… because this is a historic and momentous judgment in Kenya,” said Brian Macharia of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK).
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