Kenya Delays Vote to Decriminalize Homosexuality

Gay sex is still punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment in the country.

Kenya’s High Court has delayed a much anticipated ruling on a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality.

Citing a large case load, the court apologized and asked for understanding, as it announced the issue would be revisited on May 24 of this year. Current law makes consensual same-sex sexual activity, referred to as “carnal knowledge…against the order of nature” in the penal code, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Another section says “indecent practices between males” is punishable by up to five years in prison.

“I have been asked by my colleagues to convey our apologies,” Judge Chacha Mwita told a full courtroom in Nairobi.

“We hope you accepted them, if you don’t, we have nothing to do. We just proceed. But we do our best to come up with our decision. It is a matter you may not appreciate, how important it is, looking at the volumes we have to go through manually.”

The government said Kenya arrested 534 people for same-sex relationships between 2013 and 2017, according to NBC.

Those on the side of striking down the anti-LGBTQ law point to recent rulings decriminalizing homosexuality in India, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Kenya’s 2010 constitution guaranteeing equality, dignity, and privacy for all citizens, as backing for their position.

The LGBTQ community, and their advocates, were hopeful the court would strike down the anti-gay language in the penal code today, but many are reporting they feel cautiously optimistic that decriminalization of homosexuality will still come to Kenya at some point this year. Still, there is also plenty of upset that the decision is being pushed back, after years of waiting. The petition was initially filed in 2016.

“To say we are disappointed would be an understatement,” wrote one of the petitioners, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council (NGLHRC), on Twitter.

The Gay And Lesbian Coalition Of Kenya shared a message calling for patience, calling the courts “able.”

Kenyan journalist and cartoonist Patrick Gathara called today a “sad, sad day” for the judiciary, calling the postponement “ludicrous,” reports Al Jazeera.

Last year, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May apologized for the harmful influence of colonial-era laws against LGBTQ people, and called on Commonwealth nations to overhaul “outdated” anti-gay laws, arguing that “nobody should face discrimination or persecution because of who they are or who they love.”

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