February 22, 2019 at 10:20 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Kenya High Court delays ruling on anti-gay sodomy law
Kenya, gay news, Washington Blade
Kenya’s High Court has delayed a ruling on whether a colonial-era law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations is constitutional. (Photo by Kevin Walsh; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Kenya’s High Court has delayed a ruling on whether the country’s colonial-era sodomy law is unconstitutional.

The highly anticipated decision was expected to be announced on Friday, but the court said it will now issue it on May 24.  Voice of America reported Justice Chacha Mwita said the court needs more time “because of the voluminous paperwork submitted in the case.”

“The judges on the bench also sit in other courts … we need more time,” said Mwita. “My file alone put together is above my height standing, so we are still working.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a Kenyan advocacy group that is challenging the sodomy law, in a tweet criticized court’s decision to delay its ruling.

“To say we are disappointed would be an understatement,” it said.

Kenya is among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The India Supreme Court last September in a landmark ruling struck down the country’s colonial-era sodomy law known as Section 377. Judges in Trinidad and Tobago and Belize — which are also former British colonies — in recent years have also struck down similar statutes.

The Botswana High Court next month is scheduled to hear a case that seeks to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country.

“Discriminatory laws made many years ago continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalizing same-sex relations and failing to protect women and girls,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May in a speech she delivered at the Commonwealth summit in London last April.

 “I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country,” she added. “They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. As the U.K.’s prime minister, I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”

The Refugee Coalition of East Africa, which includes Kenya-based groups that advocate on behalf of LGBTI refugees, in a statement said it remains “hopeful that justice will prevail in May.”

“We applaud the work of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and so many others who are fighting to change the law and to change all of our lives,” said the organization. “We continue to ask the international community to put pressure on Kenya and to take advantage of this unfortunate postponement to make your voices heard in support of our right to exist, to live, and to be free in Kenya.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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