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Kenya’s highest court strikes down gay rights

Kenyan judges, Justices Chacha Mwita, Roselyne Ekirapa, and John Mativo in high court ruling on the gay sex ban, Nairobi, Kenya, May 24, 2019 REUTERS/Baz Ratner

After a delayed yet highly-anticipated ruling in the courts, the Kenyan High Court has ruled against decriminalising same-sex relations, to the dismay of gay rights campaigners.

The three-judge panel at Milimani High Court in Nairobi unanimously refused to reverse the law.

The law banning same-sex relations has been on the books since the British colonialised Kenya in the late 1800s. It indicates that same-sex relations, or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” are against the law.

The UN High Commisioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed her disappointment after the ruling.

“Criminalising acts targeting certain individuals based on who they are and whom they love is inherently discriminatory. It also sends a dangerous signal to broader society and encourages hostility and even violence against LGBT individuals,” Bachelet said.

“Denial of rights to education, healthcare, housing and employment can all be traced to the criminalisation of same sex relationships,” she added.

The large grassroots effort in Kenya by the vocal LGBTQ community sees the ruling as a setback, not only for Kenya, but for the continent as a whole. Homosexual relationships are seen as taboo in Kenya and in many countries throughout Africa. In Kenya, a person convicted of same-sex relations could be sent to prison for up to 14 years, like in Nigeria.

In Tanzania, those convicted face up to 30 years, while the death penalty is typical in Somalia and Sudan.

“My message to the people of Kenya is to fight on for greater equality for all, and never give up," said Bachelet. "The United Nations stands with you and joins you in your demands for dignity, equal rights and fair treatment," .