Kenya appeals court rejects bid to ban LGBT group registration

LGBT activists attend a court hearing in the Milimani High Court in Nairobi on February 20, 2019

The Kenya Court of Appeal has rejected a bid to block the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission from registering as an NGO (non-governmental organisation).

Laws in Kenya require all non-profit groups to register with the NGO Coordination Board, but the board had rejected the group’s application in 2015 because it caters to LGBT+ people.

In a ruling on Friday (March 22), the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by the NGO Coordination Board, which sought to deny LGBT+ Kenyans the right to associate.

In a 3-2 decision, the appeals court found that LGBT+ people have a right to form an NGO, agreeing with an earlier High Court ruling that stated blocking them from doing so is a denial of their fundamental rights.

Justice Philip Waki told the court: “The issue of LGBT is rarely discussed in public. But it cannot be doubted that it is an emotive issue, the reality is that this group does exist and we can no longer deny that.

“Let it go down that I will not be the first to throw a stone and harm them.”

LGBT+ rights campaigners celebrate ruling ruling on NGO status

In a statement to PinkNews, National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission executive director Njeri Gateru said: “The judges have chosen to stand by the constitution that allows for like-minded persons to meet and organise, formally.

“The ruling only brings inclusivity and sets a positive precedent for other rights organisations, in Kenya and around Africa.”

LGBT activists attend a court hearing in the Milimani High Court in Nairobi, Kenya, on February 20, 2019

LGBT activists attend a court hearing in the Milimani High Court in Nairobi on February 20, 2019 (SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty)

Téa Braun, director of the Human Dignity Trust, added: “The Court of Appeal’s ruling today affirms every Kenyan’s constitutional right to freedom of association, regardless of personal characteristics like sexual orientation.

“In any open and democratic society equal rights must prevail.

“People who seek to meet and organise to safeguard respect for human rights must be allowed to do so with the full protection of the law.”

LGBT+ rights activists are also challenging anti-gay laws in Kenya

The ruling comes as the High Court considers another high-profile LGBT+ rights case, concerning whether to decriminalise gay sex in the country.

The verdict from the second case, now expected on May 24, could lead to the repeal of sections of Kenya’s colonial-era penal code that criminalise gay sex.

The penal code—introduced by the British Empire in 1930—criminalises sodomy, and makes sexual acts “against the order of nature,” interpreted as including same-sex sexual relations, punishable by 14 years’ imprisonment.

The ruling in the gay sex case was originally expected in February, but was pushed back by judges who said they were yet to “finalise” their decision, citing “administrative challenges and full dockets.”