Kenya Refuses To Lift Ban On Groundbreaking Lesbian Film ‘Rafiki’

A lesbian film remains banned in Kenya despite being the second-highest-grossing Kenyan movie of all time.

A Kenyan court has refused to lift a ban on the acclaimed lesbian film, “Rafiki.”

Directed by Wanuri Kahiu, the movie was first banned in April 2018 “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law and dominant values of the Kenyans.” Gay sex is a criminal offense in Kenya, according to Reuters.

“Rafiki” is a coming-of-age romance about two young women who fall in love in Nairobi. It’s based on the short story “Jambula Tree” by Monica Arac de Nyeko.

Despite being banned in its home country, “Rafiki” was the first Kenyan film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it got a standing ovation. It has received acclaim all over the world, winning 20 awards.

Wanuri Kahiu sued the Kenyan government to lift the ban temporarily so that the film would be eligible to compete in the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category. During that week, viewers packed theaters to go see the movie, making it the second-highest-grossing Kenyan film of all time.

After that, though, the ban was promptly reinstated. Kahiu attempted to appeal, claiming that the ban was a violation of her freedom of expression.

Last week, a constitutional court upheld the ban, saying that it doesn’t violate freedom of expression but instead “protect[s] the society from moral decay.”

But Kahiu isn’t giving up hope just yet.

“We are disappointed of course. But I strongly believe in the constitution and we are not going to give up,” Kahiu told Reuters. “I think it is very important for us to define what freedom of expression means in Kenya as per our constitution. We are going to appeal. The ruling today is not a true reflection of what the constitution says.”

Kahiu is prepared to take the case even higher, all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary. She says “everybody has the right to watch” these films in Kenya. “They have the right to choose to watch them.”


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