Kenya’s High Court today started hearing arguments towards a case that challenges parts of its controversial ban on homosexuality.
The law, which came into effect in 1897, is seen as targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. Dating back to British Empire colonial times, gay sex is banned in the East African country.
Many countries across Africa have laws against homosexuality, with people facing punishment alongside severe harassment and physical threats.
Sections of the code are ‘in breach of the constitution’
The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) argues that sections of the law are in breach of Kenya’s constitution.
NGLHRC said it wishes to prove to the court that the law denies basic rights by criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adults, reports AP.
The group was founded by a group of Kenyan lawyers to protect the rights of the LGBT community.
It claims it has records of over 1,000 incidents of violations against LGBT people since 2014.
Law ‘justifies violence’ against LGBTI citizens in Kenya
The ban has also long been seen as a means to justify violence against LGBTI people in the African country.
The authorities use the ban to justify violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the East African nation, the commission’s Executive Director said.
It is not immediately clear when a ruling is to be expected.
Activist Jay Arap Salat told the court: ‘People just rush to make decisions and judgment about queer people when the truth is, it is not as bad as it is put out there.
‘It’s not about the monstrous things people say about us. It is not about pedophilia, sodomizing or things like those.
‘It is just love, we are out here, we are love, we just want love and to love each other.’
However, Kenyan Legislator Irungu Kangata, who challenged the petition, called homosexuality ‘a lifestyle choice.’
‘Well, I am somehow perturbed to see that this case is being supported by the westerners.
‘It is a form of western colonization. They want to demean Africans. They want to demean us Kenyans,’ he said.
Colonial laws are ‘harming innocent people’ without justification
Speaking to Gay Star News, leading African LGBTI activist Edwin Sesange said of the case: ‘These colonial sodomy laws should be scrapped because they are harming innocent people.
‘There has never been any justification for their existence.
‘The LGBTI community in Kenya is not demanding for special rights but for equality and protection like any other Kenyan.
‘I strongly believe that the Kenyan justice system will do the needful and grant equality to LGBTI Kenyans and lead the way in the region.’
The court case continues.