Kenya bans LGBTQ+ documentary for ‘promoting same-sex marriage’

‘Discriminatory’ banning of I Am Samuel, about a gay man’s struggles with his sexuality, criticised by activists and producers

Activists and film producers have criticised a decision by the Kenya Film Classification Board to ban a documentary that tells the story of a Kenyan man struggling with his sexuality.

They said banning the 52-minute film, I Am Samuel, amounted to “discrimination and persecution” of LGBTQ+ people.

The film – which was shot over five years and took two years to edit – follows the life of a young man tormented by his sexuality while growing up in rural Kenya, who finds acceptance after moving to the capital, Nairobi.

“The ongoing criminalisation of LGBTQ+ persons in Kenya is a sad trend bordering on discrimination and persecution of individuals perceived to have a minority orientation. The move is dictated by very intolerant and intrusive religious and cultural beliefs,” said Kamau Ngugi, the executive director of Defenders Coalition, an umbrella group of rights organisations and activists.

The film classification body said last week that the film “blatantly” violated the country’s laws that penalise all forms of homosexuality or same-sex marriage, and that the storyline was a “clear and deliberate attempt by the producer to promote same-sex marriage as an acceptable way of life”.

It said the film sought to influence viewers to believe that the “older generation that was once against LGBTQ+ is slowly buying into the practice and accepting same-sex marriage”.

Kenyan law criminalises anyone who engages in what it terms as “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”. If convicted, people face up to 14 years in prison. The Kenyan constitution states that marriage is a union between two people of opposite genders.

The government also called the film blasphemous to the Christian faith. Two young men are shown conducting a religious service, which was “an attempt to use religion to advocate same-sex marriage”, the government said.

However, Toni Kamau, one of the film’s producers, said the ban is an affront to the freedom of speech enshrined in the country’s constitution. She said she was “deeply saddened by the discriminatory language used by the government to describe the experiences of people who allowed us into their lives”.

“We believe that this is a bigger conversation about freedom of expression. Everyone has the right to share their lived experience, their truth. We love character-driven documentaries that give insight into people’s lived experiences,” said Kamau.

“What does it mean to be a Kenyan religious man in a country that criminalises your love? We thought that it was important to share this story because it is a Kenyan story.”

The government has warned that anyone who attempts to “exhibit, distribute, broadcast or possess” the film in Kenya will be met “with the full force of the law”.

Contributor

Peter Muiruri in Nairobi

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Canned in Kenya, set for Cannes: Rafiki falls foul of Nairobi film censors | Hannah Summers
Wanuri Kahiu’s drama banned for ‘promoting lesbianism’ despite becoming first Kenyan film to earn showing at Cannes

Hannah Summers

27, Apr, 2018 @3:36 PM

Article image
I Am Samuel review – meditative, optimistic documentary on queer love in Kenya
Peter Murimi’s film vividly conveys resilience, contrasting the intimacy of a brave couple with the brutality of prejudice

Phuong Le

31, May, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Major aid donors found to have funded ‘conversion therapy’ clinics in Africa
Investigation finds UK Aid and USAid money linked to centres where ‘condemned’ practice is routinely offered to LGBTQ+ people

Alice McCool

02, Jul, 2021 @9:44 AM

Article image
Ghanaian LGBTQ+ centre closes after threats and abuse
Founder says community centre in Accra was closed preemptively to protect its staff

Emmanuel Akinwotu West Africa correspondent

25, Feb, 2021 @7:14 AM

Article image
'Dangerous proposal': campaigners in Kenya condemn sex education plan
Government under fire over incorporation of dedicated lessons about sexuality into national curriculum

Verah Okeyo in Nairobi

05, Feb, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
Camels bearing healthcare deliver hope in Kenya – photo essay
When the roads are not up to it, a mobile clinic on legs brings family planning and other medical supplies to remote communities

Ami Vitale and Wanjiku Kinuthia

23, Nov, 2021 @7:01 AM

Article image
Concern grows in Kenya after alarming rise in suicide cases
Mental ill-health and ‘warped’ notions of masculinity among reasons mooted for rise of nearly 50% in a year

Peter Muiruri in Nairobi

10, Aug, 2021 @6:01 AM

Article image
Uganda chooses Tanzania over Kenya for oil pipeline route
Kampala’s decision a blow for Kenya’s oil ambitions in eastern Africa, although presidents say they will continue to work together on oil projects

Alon Mwesigwa in Kampala

12, May, 2016 @11:50 AM

Article image
Kenya debates lowering age of consent from 18 to 16
While some point to the number of teenage boys jailed for consensual sex, others fear gender equality gains could be lost

Peter Muiruri in Nairobi

28, Apr, 2021 @6:15 AM

Article image
Bandits, cows and bullets: the gangs turning to guns in Kenya | Jacob Kushner
Theft of livestock turns more deadly as herders and raiders become desperate in drought-hit areas and a ragtag militia tries to restore order

Jacob Kushner in Loruk

20, Jun, 2017 @6:00 AM