(Corrects paragraph 3 to say that Uganda threatened to ban 38 NGOs accused of promoting homosexuality, but did not actually ban them.)
NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) has gone to court after being refused registration seven times on the grounds that homosexuality is a crime in Kenya and that the group’s name is “unacceptable.”
The Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Coordination Board, which registers and coordinates NGOs in Kenya, said in its latest letter of refusal that it could reject the registration of an NGO if its name was “in the opinion of the Director repugnant to or inconsistent with any law or is otherwise undesirable”.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, as in most African countries, and persecution is widespread. Last year, Uganda threatened to ban 38 NGOs it accused of promoting homosexuality and recruiting children.
Many Africans justify their intolerance on religious grounds and decry same sex relationships as a Western import.
Kenya’s penal code – introduced by the British colonialists in 1930 – says any person “who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” is guilty of a felony and can be jailed for 14 years. Those who attempt to commit such a felony face seven years in jail.
A male who “commits any act of gross indecency with another male person” can be jailed for up to five years.
No one has ever been prosecuted as police would have to catch someone in the act. But the law makes it easy for police and neighbours to blackmail, harass and kill gays and lesbians.
Rights activists say the Penal Code is unconstitutional as it clashes with the Bill of Rights.
In its constitutional petition, which is due to be heard on Wednesday, the NGLHRC argues that the NGO Board is violating the group’s rights to association and equality.
“The NGLHRC is desirous of implementing the Constitution of Kenya 2010 towards making Kenya an open and democratic society that is guided by the national values of inclusiveness, equality, freedom, non-discrimination, human dignity, equity and protection of the marginalized as espoused in article 10,” it said in a statement.
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