Not yet Uhuru for LGBTQIA+ despite Supreme Court ruling

Irreversible ruling by the apex court is comforting but hardship persists

In Summary

• Founding member of Gay and Lesbians Coalition feels vindicated 

Image: OZONE

It should come as no surprise to my readers that I applaud last week’s Supreme Court ruling that Kenyan authorities were wrong to prevent the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) from registering back in 2013.

Congratulations are in order to all the activists involved in this matter for the last decade since Eric Gitari, then the executive director of the NGLHRC, challenged the head of Kenya NGO Coordination Board's refusal to permit him to apply to register an NGO under a name containing the words gay or lesbian.

This battle led directly to Kenya’s Apex court ruling: “It would be unconstitutional to limit the right to associate, through denial of registration of an association, purely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the applicants.”

At a time when members of the LGBTQIA+ community across Africa continue to be threatened by religious and other bigots, this irreversible ruling by the highest court in the land gives some comfort, but the struggle is far from over.

The goals of full equality in the eyes of the law are yet to be reached, which is why some very courageous people continue to wage this war for equal recognition.

It is a war that a number of organisations, groups and individuals have been fighting for more than two decades.

I was a member of one of the small organisations that came together to explore what could be done in furtherance of these goals in 2002, when there was hope that we could get recognition for our rights in the Constitution.

For a while, we held our meetings in the boardroom of a parastatal entity. I never found out who helped us secure the space, but until this day, I doubt that the leadership of that entity was aware of what was being discussed under their roof.

Eventually we moved our meetings to a space provided by a sexual health NGO, and we met regularly to plan and strategise.

From those meetings, inspired in part by the National Rainbow Coalition that had seen different groups come together under one umbrella organisation, we formed the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Galck

While I stepped away from my active frontline role in Galck in 2007, when the pressures of a new job demanded my attention, my support never wavered. And I see the Supreme Court decision on the NGLHRC, 20 years on, as vindication of those early struggles.

In many ways, this victory is really the spur needed to energise the continued war for equality, and even then, you can be assured it will still not be time to rest on our laurels.  

Here in South Africa, where LGBTQIA+ rights are recognised and protected in the Constitution, it is still not yet Uhuru, in a manner of speaking.

In February, which is LGBTQIA+  Pride month here in Cape Town, the bigots have set their sights on the community.

One group whose mandate is to battle gangsterism and drugs decided to launch an attack on the gay community under the cover of  certain religious teachings that classify homosexuality as a sin punishable by death.

Another group of religious bigots has meanwhile been holding seminars preaching against transgenderism, saying it is not mentioned in religious teachings and, therefore, must be wrong.

The way these types go on, you’d think every aspect of their lives was guided by religious teachings. But it is not; these are just busybodies who like to interfere in the lives of others, and often, in my judgement, because they are not very secure in their own sexuality.

All is not lost, however. In its wisdom, the provincial government made a point of showing its support for the LGBTQIA+ community by illuminating Cape Town’s provincial headquarters in the colours of the Pride rainbow every night during pride.

As you can imagine, the haters were not impressed or even slightly amused, and they reached for their whataboutisms with the same alacrity that Americans have been shooting down balloons.

Raging Debate

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