What is life like for sexual minorities in a country that can impose a maximum sentence of 14 years for …
”None of us is free until everyone is”, said Kenyan LGBTIQ+ activist Njeri Gateru. Gateru visited Helsinki during the Pride week as a guest of KIOS.
Gateru was a speaker at an event Love Is Legal – Lgbtiq rights in Kenya, hosted by Jani Toivola. She spoke on the struggle to decriminalize homosexuality in Kenya. On the speakers’ panel were also Sakris Kupila and Annika Ojala from SETA.
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, the law is used 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. Sexual, physical and emotional abuse against LGBTIQ+ persons is daily.
KIOS funds the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which offers free legal assistance for sexual and gender minorities. The organization also 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. 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.
”I am marching for possibilities”
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.”
Watch the live stream of the event Love Is Legal – Lgbtiq rights in Kenya: