news

Kenya delays landmark ruling on decriminalisation of homosexuality

The High Court was due to make a decision on whether to repeal colonial-era anti-gay laws on Friday (22 February).

2019-02-22

Judges in Kenya have delayed a landmark decision on whether to decriminalise homosexuality.

The High Court was set to rule on whether to repeal colonial-era laws banning same-sex sexual relations between both men and women on Friday (22 February), only to postpone the decision at the last minute.

Justice John Mativo said that the court needed more time to consider the evidence, citing a heavy workload. The judgement will now be heard on 24 May.

The delay comes as a disappointing blow for LGBTQ campaigners in Kenya and internationally, who see the ruling as a pivotal moment for the future of gay equality in Africa, where 34 of 54 states continue to criminalise homosexaulity.

Téa Braun, Director of human rights campaign group Human Dignity Trust, said following the announcement in Nairobi: "This is tremendously disappointing, particularly for the committed and tenacious activists and lawyers in Kenya who have been working towards this moment for several years.

"Nonetheless, we must put our trust in the Kenyan justice system. This is a pivotal case, and ultimately the most important thing is a sound and reasoned judgment that will free LGBT Kenyans from discrimination and persecution."

Kenya's high court judges will be ruling on whether Sections 162, 163 and 163 of the penal code banning same-sex sexual relations are incompataible with the country's progressive 2010 constitution, which guarantees a right to equality, dignity and privacy.

The anti-gay laws, which were introduced during British colonial rule, make "carnal knowledge against the order or nature" punishable with up to 14 years in prison and "gross indencency" between two men punishable byup to five years in prison.

The ruling comes after Angola abolished colonial anti-gay laws banning same-sex sexual relations last month, in a historic breakthrough for LGBTQ rights in Africa.