In an announcement by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), the East African country maintained its rather unwavering and intransigent position towards homosexuality by reiterating that the screening of all movies with LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) content in Kenya remains banned; in the wholesale sense of the word banned.
The KFCB affirmed Kenya’s hostile attitudes towards homosexuality (most notably in arts and entertainment) by sticking to the provisions of the country’s Constitution, the latter which effectively outlaws same-sex relations.
And in placing such obstinate reliance in ‘law and order’, the KFCB vowed to intensify its severe repression of same-sex films in the mainstream media.
The Acting CEO of the KFCB, Christopher Wambua, delivered the stern warnings to the country on radio — strictly speaking, content with same-sex relationships should absolutely never be shown in any media within the confines of Kenya’s geographical borders.
“The country’s laws do not allow LGBTQ+ content or even relationships. Even as we rate and classify content, we also consider other applicable laws.
“If there is any content that normalises or glorifies same-sex relationships, our position in Kenya has always been that kind of content is restricted and should not be broadcasted, exhibited or distributed within the borders of the country.”
While placing unconditional emphasis on outlawing the broadcasting of LGBTQ+ movies in the mainstream media, the issue of such content being available on the internet (social media and streaming platforms) with profound and overwhelming ubiquity is one which is still giving Kenyan state authorities some headaches.
Wambua noted while explicit homosexual content is pervasively available on the internet, the government is working tirelessly to restrict and block the airing of such content in Kenya. He lamented the fact that Netflix is the most conspicuous culprit in this rather moralistic conundrum, adding that talks between Kenya and the American streaming site are already in progress so as to find a way to curtail access to homosexual content among Kenyans in the future.
Wambua highlighted this aspect saying, “ Most of them are restricting; because of our discussions with Netflix, they are curating their classification system that is very aligned with our laws with the view of ensuring that in future once we sign the agreement, some of this content is not visible at all within the republic.
“Whether you are exhibiting on the theatre or VOD platform, there is no vacuum, the law is very clear.”
He further affirmed the government’s moral crusade by remarking on how parents should be vigilant over their children having access to visual content with same-sex relationships.
“Research has shown that film and media content influence the behaviour and the thinking of consumers, especially children who are most impressionable.
“Parents need to set screen times and monitor their child’s internet use because the internet is filled with unfiltered content for kids to be exposed to harmful interactions like bullying and harassment.
“As we try our best to assign the age ratings, it is the responsibility of the parents to educate and sensitize their children that they should not be able to look at it.”
Kenya’s official record regarding the airing of same-sex unions content through films has always been a hostile one. In 2018, the film Rafiki — premised on “a lesbian storyline” — was banned by the KFCB for “promoting lesbianism”, with express notions from KFCB’s leadership that “homosexuality is not our way of life”.
However the ban on Rafiki was lifted by a High Court judge in Kenya for the purposes of allowing the incendiary film to be submitted for the Oscars (the Academy Awards). Rafiki was the first film from Kenya to debut at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in that same year.
In 2019, the High Court in Kenya upheld the ban on homosexuality, arguing that legalizing homosexual relations “would indirectly open the doors to same-sex unions”.
The judge who presided over the matter, Roselyne Aburili, upheld the legality of Sections 162 and 165 of the Kenyan penal code (which criminalize homosexual relations) saying that the decriminalization of LGBTQ+ relations run contrary to the constitutional norms and the customs of the Kenyan people.
The obdurate reliance on the Constitution in banning same-sex relations is somewhat — if not outright — disingenuous, considering how Kenya’s Constitution (adopted in 2010 via a referendum) has been hailed as progressive as far as granting “golden threads of equality, dignity and freedom” is concerned through its Bill of Rights (Chapter 4 of Kenya’s Constitution).
In this, the interpretation of statutes becomes a convenient pretext to clamp down on the fundamental and inalienable freedoms of people who identify as LGBTQ+.
And this spreads through to the film industry (and the generality of the arts sector) with venomous ferocity. As such, this is the context in which the ban of homosexual movies in Kenya should be given attention to.
Arguments of patriarchal hegemony and sexist domination to preach a vainglorious moral message infringing the rights and choices of other human beings become totally unavoidable. In the broader African picture.