Kenya Delays Decision On Decriminalizing Gay Sex

In Kenya colonial-era laws still criminalize same-sex sexual activity.

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In Kenya, colonial-era laws still criminalize same-sex sexual activity. LGBTQ advocates have long been fighting to change the law, and the courts were expected to reach a decision on the issue this month. But now, advocates must wait at least another three months to hear a decision, as the high court has delayed issuing a ruling.

“The files are above my height… we are still working,” Chacha Mwita, one of the judges, told Al Jazeera. “We plan to meet in April if all goes well and see whether we can come up with a decision. You do not appreciate what the judges are going through.”

The case was filed more than three years ago in an attempt to overturn laws that punish “unnatural” sexual acts with up to 14 years in prison. The LGBTQ advocates who brought the case argue that the laws are in conflict with Kenya’s constitution. As the case has moved forward, however, it has been opposed by religious groups.

LGBTQ advocates are disappointed by the delay. Yvonna Oduor, a campaigner, told The Guardian, “I just wish the excuse was better. People’s lives are hanging on the line. Justice has been delayed, but it has not yet been denied.”

The Kenyan National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council tweeted of the delay, “To say we are disappointed would be an understatement,” and Kenyan social commentator Patrick Gathara told The Guardian that it was a “sad, sad day” for the for the courts and that the delay was ‘ludicrous.'”

Despite the delay, there is still optimism that the court could strike down the anti-gay laws. Several recent court rulings have made promising signs, including a recent ruling banning “anal testing” on men suspected of being gay, and a decision from the court to allow the Kenyan lesbian film Rafiki to be shown in the country.