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Courts turn saviour for oppressed Kenyan LGBTQ community

The Kenyan legal justice system has become one of the biggest defenders and protectors of LGBTQ rights in the country.

With pressure from conservative religious organisations, anti-LGBTQ groups, and an oppressive society, Kenyan courts have sometimes been the last line of defence for the community. 

On several occasions, the courts have ruled in favour of the Kenyan LGBTQ movement in cases filed against the government.

The Kenyan government had long refused to register and license LGBTQ lobby groups and rights bodies, arguing that registration would encourage same-sex relationships and marriages in the country.

But in 2015, the courts ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government to deny LGBTQ lobby groups their right to registration and operation.

The ruling forced the government to open registration of LGBTQ lobby groups, a window that has seen continuous emergence and active operation of many bodies fighting for the rights of the community.

Currently, there are more than 50 registered LGBTQ groups in Kenya.

With the courts’ protection, LGBTQ lobby groups in Kenya can now operate freely without the fear of being clamped down on by authorities.

When Kenyan authorities started arresting people suspected to be engaged in same-sex relationships, the majority of gay men arrested were forced to undergo a mandatory anal examination in an attempt to prove any history of anal sex.

Gay lobby bodies challenged in court these forced anal examinations, and in 2018, the Kenyan Court of Appeal ruled that they were unconstitutional and against human rights and dignity.

Since then, it has been hard for authorities to arrest and charge gay people in court for engaging in same-sex relationships and intercourse because they cannot prove the act of sex.

LGBTQ lobby groups in Kenya are currently pursuing a case in Kenya’s Supreme Court to force the government to allow and legalise same-sex marriages in the country.

Both the High and Appeal Courts have failed to overturn the government’s decision to maintain criminalisation of same-sex marriages in Kenya.

The groups are hopeful that Kenya’s top court will rule in their favour.

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