Rafiki means friend in Swahili but in the LGBTQ+ circles, it is a litmus test that emboldens this community to mainstream or remain closeted in Kenya.
The Rafiki movie has been screened in major cities and events across the world but back home in Kenya, the Wanuri Kahiu production faces a gargantuan task to be accepted.
Despite Kenya being a conservative but horny country, those in the gay community cannot portray this in public due to the homophobia the country harbours.
Gay Movie at The Law Courts
On Thursday, Wanuri tweeted, “BEYOND EXCITED to be screening Rafiki in Kenya tomorrow at Milimani High Court!!! #FreedomOfExpression.”
She is pushing the boundaries and her tack with the courts could be the turning point for Kenya in regard to homosexuals and how they relate with each other in public.
Thereafter in a series of tweets, Wanuri explained why it was important for the event to happen.
“My film Rafiki will be screened in the Kenyan High Court,” she added saying that it was historic and “so important in the fight for Freedom of Opinion/ Freedom of Expression/ Freedom of the Media.”
The movie was screened in the Kenyan High Court in a first while still banned in the rest of the country.
However, for it to qualify for the Oscars shortlisting, it had to be watched locally and in a court ruling, Judge Wilfrida Okwany allowed the screening of the film for seven days to ‘willing adults’.
The ruling temporarily suspended the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) ban and the movie was screened.
In banning the movie, KFCB said the movie was seeking to legitimise lesbian romance.
Wanuri blames Kenyans over the ban saying that they did not advocate for it.
In her campaign which she pushes under the freedom of expression tenet, Wanuri may have succeeded in pushing her agenda by having the courts watch the movie.
She said, “When films, music, art is banned or censored it interferes with our constitutional rights to make and/ or watch the work we create. Rafiki screening in court allows the court to make a decision on IF there has been a breach of constitutional rights”
“Our wish is that Rafiki helps towards upholding the articles in our Bill of Rights as enshrined in our constitution,” she added.
In her updates, she hailed the feat: “So great to see LGBT+ 🏳️🌈 story here in Kenyan Court. Even if only as evidence as part of case. Every voice matters, every voice is important.”
After the screening on Friday, she said the judge asked for a few paragraphs to be submitted based on the film. The arguments are to be heard on December 3.
Kenya Upholds Gay Sex Ban
In May this year, High Court judges Roselyn Aburili, Chacha Mwita and John Mativo ruled against gay sex in Kenya. With this, they upheld a law that makes same-sex affairs punishable by 14 years in jail.
The United Nations and rights activists criticized the ruling which is similar to 70 other countries around where same-sex relationships are a crime.
Justice Roselyn Aburili said, “We hereby decline the relief sought and dismiss the combined petition. We find that the impugned sections are not unconstitutional, accordingly the combined petitions have no merit.”
When President Barack Obama visited Kenya in April 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta told him that the gay rights agenda was a non-issue for Kenyans.
“We share a lot of things but gay issues are not among them. We cannot impose on people what they don’t accept,” Uhuru told Obama.
He added, “I want to be very clear, I will not engage in any subject that is not of any major importance to the people and the Republic of Kenya. This is not an issue of human rights, this is an issue of society, of our own base as a culture as a people regardless of which society you come from. This is not acceptable, this is not agreeable.”
Uhuru urged the Americans to respect the Kenyan society which rejected same-sex marriages.