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Kenya Lifts Ban on Lesbian Movie for One Week, Making it Eligible For Oscars

Rafiki - meaning "Friend" in Swahili - premiered at Cannes, the first Kenyan film to be selected by the prestigious festival, but it was banned at home on the grounds that it promotes homosexuality, a criminal offence under a colonial-era law.

Reuters

Updated:September 21, 2018, 6:10 PM IST
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Kenya Lifts Ban on Lesbian Movie for One Week, Making it Eligible For Oscars
A still from Rafiki
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A Kenyan judge temporarily lifted a ban on an acclaimed lesbian movie on Friday, making it eligible to be entered for a Foreign Language Oscar, delighting the filmmakers but angering the censor.

Rafiki - meaning "Friend" in Swahili - premiered at Cannes, the first Kenyan film to be selected by the prestigious festival, but it was banned at home on the grounds that it promotes homosexuality, a criminal offence under a colonial-era law.

"During the seven day suspension period the film shall only be open for viewing to willing adults only", Justice Wilfrida Okwany told a packed courtroom in Nairobi.

Okwany said the makers of the film were "hereby allowed to admit the film" to Kenya's Oscars selection committee.

A Nairobi cinema announced it would screen the movie from Sunday.

But the Kenya Film Classification Board, which banned the movie in April, said it still considered Rafiki morally subversive.

"It is a sad moment and a great insult, not only to the film industry, but to all Kenyans who stand for morality, that a film that glories homosexuality is allowed to be the country's branding tool abroad," it said in a statement.

The judge said the film's depiction of a same-sex relationship has been "tolerable" to adult audiences in other countries including South Africa, where homosexuality, as in most of the continent, is also taboo.

"I am not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society whose moral foundation will be shaken by simply watching a film depicting gay themes," Okwany said.

The ruling comes as Kenyan rights activists fight to decriminalise gay sex, something that happened in India this month, raising hopes among gay right proponents in Africa.
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