Kenya: High Court lifts ban from lesbian-theme film ‘Rafiki’, making it eligible for Oscars

  • October 1, 2018

Amidst rising skyscrapers and high-end technology, there are orthodox beliefs that are still rampant in African nations. One such belief is ‘homophobia’. 38 out of 54 countries on the continent have enacted laws that make it illegal to be gay and in several, including Somalia and South Sudan, homosexuality is punishable by death.

In Kenya, too, anyone found engaging in gay or lesbian activities could face up to 14 years in prison.

Therefore, it came as a surprise to some and a shock to many when a Kenyan High Court temporarily lifted the ban on ‘Rafiki’, a film about tender love that blossoms between two young women.

‘Rafiki’, which means friend in Swahili, is a 2018 Kenyan drama film directed by Wanuri Kahiu. It is inspired by Ugandan Monica Nyeko’s 2007 Caine Prize-winning short story ‘Jambula Tree’.

The film made history when it became the first Kenyan movie to premiere at the Cannes film festival. However, it was banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law”. The ban raised international outrage by the supporters of LGBT rights.

The court’s decision to lift the ban from the film made ‘Rafiki’ eligible to be submitted for the Best Foreign Language film at next year’s Academy Awards.

According to the Academy’s rules, a film must be shown in the country where it was produced for seven consecutive days to be eligible.

The film was screened in the Kenyan capital Nairobi from September 23 until September 29. It turned to be a complete sell out.

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