Kenya bans 'blasphemous' film about gay lovers

·2 min read
Murimi told AFP last October that he did not expect the documentary to fare well with Kenyan censors (AFP/Tolga AKMEN)

Kenyan authorities on Thursday banned a documentary about two gay lovers, calling it "unacceptable and an affront to (the) culture and identity" of a deeply Christian country which has long criminalised homosexuality.

Directed by a Kenyan filmmaker, "I Am Samuel" depicts a romantic relationship between two men living in Nairobi and has aroused the ire of the country's censors for promoting "same-sex marriage as an acceptable way of life".

The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) said the documentary sought to propagate "values that are in dissonance with our constitution, culture values and norms".

"Worse still, the production is demeaning of Christianity as two gay men in the film purport to conduct a religious marriage invoking the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," KFCB boss Christopher Wambua said in a statement, declaring it "blasphemous".

"Any attempt to exhibit, distribute, broadcast or possess the restricted film within the Republic of Kenya shall, therefore, be met with the full force of the law."

Homosexuality is taboo across much of Africa, and gays often face discrimination or persecution.

Attempts to overturn British colonial-era laws banning homosexuality in Kenya have proven unsuccessful, and gay sex remains a punishable crime with penalties that include imprisonment of up to 14 years.

"I Am Samuel" is the second gay-themed film to be banned in Kenya, following a 2018 decision to stop cinemas from showing "Rafiki", a lesbian love story which became the first Kenyan movie to premiere at the Cannes film festival.

The ban on "Rafiki" ("friend" in Swahili) was later overturned by a court, and the film opened to sold-out audiences in Nairobi.

- 'Silencing queer voices' -

"I Am Samuel" director Peter Murimi told AFP in an interview last October that he did not expect the documentary to fare well with Kenyan censors.

He described the film as "very nuanced, it's very balanced, it's a story about a family that is struggling with this issue, having a gay son."

"So we'll just try our best and hopefully Kenyans will see it and that's what we want," he said.

Human Rights Watch condemned the ban, calling it "discriminatory" and a violation of Kenyan citizens' rights.

"Once again, the Kenyan government has disparaged its LGBT citizens by banning a documentary that aims to humanise an ordinary Kenyan gay couple," Neela Ghoshal, associate LGBT Rights director at HRW, told AFP.

"KFCB can continue violating freedom of expression by silencing queer Kenyan voices, but it can't erase them," she added.

The documentary, which has been shown at several film festivals and is available to rent online, also enjoys support from "Rafiki" director Wanuri Kahiu.

"Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself," she posted on Twitter.


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