In a shock announcement, the highly anticipated ruling on decriminalising homosexuality in Kenya has been postponed by the High Court in Nairobi.
The court had promised to issue its decision today in the challenge against sections of the Penal Code that make consensual same-sex acts between adults illegal.
There was huge anxiety and excitement about the potentially landmark ruling, which could have a major impact on the wider LGBTQ community in the East Africa region.
However, after activists, journalists and others packed the courtroom this morning, they were told by Justice John Mativo that the three-bench panel of judges need more time to make a decision in the matter. The ruling is now set to be issued on 24 May.
According to LGBTQ activist Denis Nzioka, the reason for the postponement was due to administrative challenges and full dockets. He quoted the judge as saying that, “We are still planning when to regroup. The judges have asked me to ask you to give us up to May.”
“To say we are disappointed would be an understatement,” tweeted the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), which brought the case to the courts in 2016.
AMSHeR, a Pan-African coalition of MSM and LGBT-led organisations, said the delay was “unfortunate” and that “justice delayed is justice denied.”
Speaking to The Guardian, activist Yvonne Oduor added: “I just wish the excuse was better. People’s lives are hanging on the line.”
Kenya’s Penal Code is a holdover from its colonial era and like many former British colonies retains anti-buggery laws that make vague reference to “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency.” Under the provisions, these acts are punishable with up to 14 years in prison.
In March 2018, the NGLHRC won a case at the Court of Appeals challenging the use of forced anal examinations to determine the sexual orientation of men suspected of being gay.