Gay people in Kenya are taking the government to the High Court, saying officials have breached the Constitution by refusing to recognize LGBTI organizations.
The case, which starts with a preliminary hearing tomorrow, is set to cause a media storm.
But if judges back them, they will pave the way for the government to legally recognize other LGBTI groups. And it will make it clear the Kenyan Constitution protects everyone, regardless of sexuality or gender identity.
The case is being brought by Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC).
They say the country’s Non-Governmental Organization Board refused to register them because it says the group’s name is ‘not acceptable’ and ‘the Penal Code under Section 162 criminalizes gay and lesbian liaisons’.
NGLHRC say this breaches the constitution which guarantees the rights of people to associate freely, guarantees their dignity and protects them from discrimination.
Writing for Gay Star News today, Denis Nzioka NGLHRC deputy director says: ‘Registering NGLHRC is not part of any efforts to promote gay activities which are already criminalized or same-sex marriage.
‘But we want to further the well-being of gay people who are a minority group in Kenya, and who enjoy equal rights and freedoms as espoused in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
‘Many LGBTI groups, facing outright rejections of their applications, have been forced to resort to changing their names, objectives and activities.
‘Worse still, many are forced to hide their identities and members engagements and activities out of fear of being discovered.
‘Gay and lesbian groups and associations have a right enjoy government recognition on an equal basis with other associations through registration.
‘That is why we are suing.’
Tomorrow’s hearing will see a judge set a panel of three High Court judges to hear their case. The choice is likely to prove crucial.
Nzioka told us: ‘The case can go either way. We are hoping if we get very good, liberal, progressive judges we can get a favorable ruling.
‘But we believe we have a strong case. This is a case of a gross violation of our human rights.’
The appointed panel of judges is likely to sit before the end of November. But with the Christmas break rapidly approaching, the case is likely to then be delayed until next year.
A powerful lobby of anti-gay politicians, lawyers and journalists is also likely to want to have their say in the case.
But other marginalized groups, like sex workers, will also be watching it closely as they are also denied the right to form legally recognized organizations on the same basis.