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  • 1 Jul 2019

Helsinki Pride Week: Kenyan LGBTIQ+ activist: “I am marching for possibilities”

”None of us is free until everyone is”, said Kenyan LGBTIQ+ activist Njeri Gateru. She visited Helsinki during the Pride week as a guest of KIOS.

Gateru spoke at the event Love Is Legal – Lgbtiq rights in Kenya, hosted by Finnish actor and former member of parliament Jani Toivola. She spoke on the struggle to decriminalize homosexuality in Kenya. Sakris Kupila and Annika Ojala from LGBTI Rights in Finland – SETA joined the speakers’ panel.

A woman and a man speaking

Jani Toivola interviewed Njeri Gateru.

 

Two men and two women talking on stage

Finnish activists Annika Ojala and Sakris Kupila joined the panel.

 

Discrimination, extortion and violence

The colonial-era criminal law in Kenya forbids homosexual relations with a maximum sentence of 14 years. Although sentences are rare, some people use the law to justify discrimination. The police, health care officials, employers, property owners and ordinary citizens can discriminate against sexual- and gender minorities because of the law. In addition, sexual, physical and emotional abuse against LGBTIQ+ persons is daily.

KIOS funds the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a Kenyan NGO which offers free legal assistance for sexual and gender minorities. Also, the organization aims to reform the law by legal action.

In May 2019, Kenyan high court decided against the activists’ plea to overrule the laws that ban homosexuality. In regards to the decision, Gateru’s organization argues that the laws are unconstitutional, because the Kenyan constitution forbids discrimination.

“I believe that a legal battle can change people’s opinions as well”, Gateru said.

Three women in front of a staircase

Njeri Gateru met with members of the Finnish Parliament, Hanna Sarkkinen and Saara-Sofia Sirén.

 

”I am marching for possibilities”

Before the event Gateru said that she was happy to attend Pride march and to see how popular Pride week is in Helsinki.

“I am excited to be in a space where my queerness is affirmed without a question. I just need to walk outside and there are rainbow flags and messages of love. It warms my heart to be in such a space, it shows me possibilities of what could be, it shows my dreams are not invalid. This can happen.”

People on the street holding rainbow and trans flags

Helsinki Pride Week brought out thousands of people

People smiling and holding rainbow flags and signs

People on the street with signs

A truck with people in and a banner on the side

”The result of coming out of the closet”, says the banner.

A crowd with signs and flags

 

 

Watch the live stream of the event Love Is Legal – Lgbtiq rights in Kenya:

 

See also a video about Njeri Gateru:

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