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Kenya judge lifts ban and rules lesbian film can be submitted to the Oscars

Kenya judge lifts ban and rules lesbian film can be submitted to the Oscars

A scene from the film Rafiki

A Kenya judge has lifted the ban on a lesbian film and said it can be submitted to the Oscars.

Rafiki, which means ‘friend’ in Swahili, was banned in Kenya due to its homosexual storyline.

Given its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, the critically lauded film was hoped to be submitted for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

The deadline to submit the film is 30 September. However, the real deadline to decide was 23 September as Academy Awards rules state it must be screened for at least seven days before the deadline.

This is a massive victory for director Wanuri Kahiu and gives hope for LGBTI rights in Kenya.

The ban on the Kenyan movie

Kahiu lodged the suit against KFCB chief Ezekiel Mutua and the country’s attorney general.

In a tweet published upon the movie’s Cannes debut, KFCB announced the board had restricted it because of ‘its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism’.

They also said that anyone in possession of the movie ‘will be in breach of the law’.

‘Rafiki should NOT be distributed, exhibited or broadcast within the Republic of Kenya,’ they finally declared.

Kenya does not recognize same-sex couples. Moreover, sodomy is a crime punishable by 14 years imprisonment.


In today’s ruling, Judge Okwanny ruled Rafiki can be screened for seven days and submitted to the Academy Awards.

‘Gay themes or the practice of homosexuality did not begin with Rafiki,’ she said.

‘I am not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that its moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film.’

Rafiki will begin to be screened tomorrow (22 September).

The plot sees best friends Kena and Ziki wish for something different than becoming good Kenyan wives. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls resist and support each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, the two will have to choose between happiness and safety.

Watch the trailer for Rafiki:

Rafiki will premiere in the UK during London Film Festival on 13 October.

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