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Rule of LawKenya

Kenya: Hundreds of Muslims march against LGBTQ rights

October 7, 2023

The religious crowd protested at the Supreme Court after Friday prayers. The demonstrators are seeking further criminalization of same-sex relations in the African country.

Anti-LGBTQ protesters hold up placards denouncing gay and trans rights
Enraged Muslims say they will march to parliament next in support of harsher anti-LGBTQ lawsImage: Thomas Mukoya/REUTERS

Hundreds of Kenyan Muslims marched on the country's Supreme Court Friday in protest against a recent decision upholding the right of LGBTQ groups to associate and form non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Angered Muslims carrying printed placards decried "neo-colonialists" and the immorality of homosexuality, while demanding the three justices who affirmed the LGBTQ community's right to associate, "resign and repent."

Last month, the three ruled that Kenya's Non-Governmental Organization Board had discriminated against an LGBTQ group by not allowing them to register their association with the body. Two further judges dissented, saying there could be no discrimination as same-sex relationships are illegal in Kenya.

The decision, which opponents called "dangerous," enraged conservatives.

Kenya's President William Ruto acknowledged that the country's laws, culture and religions do not allow same-sex relationships but said he respected the Supreme Court's decision.

Parliamentarian Mohamed Ali, however, claimed the court had failed to recognize that Kenya "is a religious country," saying: "Islam and Christianity are against gayism. Our country's constitution doesn't recognize same-sex marriages. Three people in a court should not go against the societal values."

Anti-LGBTQ Muslims say they support harsher laws

Colonial-era laws in Kenya outlaw gay sex and although conviction and imprisonment are rare, pro-LGBTQ activists say the laws perpetuate the stigmatization of same-sex relationships as well as stripping community members of their dignity and their rights to healthcare and justice.

The independent Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) said Friday's protests were part of a "hateful campaign."

"We take this opportunity to unequivocally condemn all the previous and ongoing nefarious activities that continue to expose this community's rights to life, security, and dignity," the group said in a statement. 

Anti-LGBTQ protesters say they are also planning a march to Kenya's parliament in support of a draft bill proposing further criminalization of same-sex relations and carrying jail terms of up to 50 years in certain cases.

Lawmaker Peter Kaluma submitted the law, which is similar to one passed in neighboring Uganda in May.

Though homosexuality is illegal in most East African countries, Uganda's new anti-LGBTQ law is especially harsh, carrying the death penalty for same-sex relations with a minor or other vulnerable individuals, or when the accused is infected with HIV.

js/wd (AFP, AP)