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Kenya seeks to ban LGBTQ movies on Netflix

Prohibition expected to take effect by end of year

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(Public domain photo)

The streaming of LGBTQ movies on Netflix in Kenya is set to be restricted as the country tightens the noose on same-sex sexual activity. 

The Kenya Film Classification Board, which is charged with the classification and regulations of films for public consumption, is in final talks with Netflix to restrict same-sex content that violates the country’s laws.

Acting Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Christopher Wambua confirmed that official discussions with Netflix Africa began in October 2021, while noting that access to LGBTQ movies will be restricted before the end of this year. 

“Already we have developed a draft agreement that defines how to conduct their (Netflix) operations in the country after another discussion in April this year,” Wambua said. 

The Kenya Film Classification Board is supposed to share the agreement with Netflix Africa this week for further scrutiny of its provisions before implementing it. The company’s content manager for the continent is a Kenyan based in Nairobi. 

The board has classified LGBTQ content under the “restricted category,” meaning it is not allowed for broadcast, exhibition and distribution to the public. 

The agreement allows Netflix to self-classify movies streamed in Kenya by limiting offensive content that glorifies, normalizes, promotes and propagates homosexuality. 

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized under Section 165 of Kenya’s Penal Code while the Films and Stage Plays Act gives the board the power to regulate the exhibition, distribution, possession, or broadcasting of content to the public. Its content classification exempts live programming and news.    

“Netflix will have to develop an intelligence safety-worth classification pool that is consistent with the film classification guidelines for Kenya so that the system’s output is aligned with our local laws and regulatory provisions concerning content classification,” stated Wambua.   

The move to permit Netflix and other streaming services to self-classy movies for Kenya will only allow the board to monitor compliance.

“Netflix has indicated a commitment to operate in the country within the purview of the existing laws,” he said. “By the end of October this year we should have finalized the agreement so that by November we pilot the new framework.”

Kenya is the second African country to demand Netfilx ban the streaming of LGBTQ movies.

Egypt’s media regulator this month warned Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming services against broadcasting content that breaches its “societal values” and threatened to take action if not curbed.  

The first Netflix film, “Perfect Strangers,” released earlier this year targeting the Arabic audience sparked criticism in Egypt and the Middle East for having scenes that depict homosexuality. One Egyptian lawmaker even called for Netflix to be banned in the country.

Egypt is among the countries in the Arab World that do not condone homosexuality. 

Egyptian authorities usually prosecute gay men on charges of “immorality” or “debauchery.” Police regularly raid private parties, restaurants and bars to arrest them. 

Egypt’s warning on Sept. 7 came a day after Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman demanded Netflix to drop “offensive content” from its local streaming platforms as it “contradicts Islamic and societal values and principles.”

Egypt and Kenya have the highest number of Netflix subscriptions in Africa.

Kenya in September 2021 banned a gay documentary, “I Am Samuel,” produced by a local filmmaker.

The Kenya Film Classification Board said was “blasphemous” because it promoted “values that are in dissonance with our constitution, culture, values and norms.” The same film, however, has been screened at more than 25 film festivals globally and streamed on iTunes, Vimeo and other international platforms. 

Filmmakers and groups opposed to the government’s LGBTQ films restriction criticized the decision as an abuse of the freedom of expression the Kenyan Constitution guarantees. Courts have dismissed challenges to it.

Apart from the Kenya Film Classification Board reaching a deal with Netflix to restrict LGBTQ content, Wambua disclosed that a new law has already been approved by the outgoing Cabinet to help the board effectively classify and regulate content in this digital era.        

“The new digital platforms allowing streaming of movies make it difficult hence need to do some readjustments in the law to give companies powers to self-classify their videos-on-demand films that apply on auto-visual content. The existing law was for the analogue era,” he noted. 

The proposed law, dubbed the Kenya Film Bill 2021, has yet to be introduced in the Kenyan Parliament, which reconvened on Wednesday after August’s general election.    

The bill would recognize Kenya Film Classification Board key mandates of regulating the creation, broadcasting, distribution, possession and exhibition of films through the issuance of licenses to filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors. The bill would also recognize the Kenya Film Classification Board’s role in classifying films under various categories such as films that are either restricted or prohibited.  

The Kenya Film Classification Board is engaging with other regulatory government agencies to have minimal adjustments on self-classifications through miscellaneous amendments to restrict LGBTQ content to avoid any delay in enacting the proposed law.   

“If this is done even before we overhaul the existing law, we would have the requisite provisions that are necessary to allow us to accommodate the business model of videos-on-demand (VODs) which are on digital demand,” Wambua said. 

The Washington Blade has reached out to Netflix for comment.

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Africa

Kenyan LGBTQ rights groups honor transgender refugees, asylum seekers

Event coincided with the Transgender Day of Remembrance

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The Refugee Trans Initiative and the Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health used the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor transgender refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health)

Two LGBTQ rights groups in Kenya this month used the Transgender Awareness Week and the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor transgender refugees and asylum seekers in the country. 

The Refugee Trans Initiative and Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health on Nov. 20 hosted an event in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. It did not take place in the Kakuma refugee camp; but former residents who now live in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa attended. 

“The event was to celebrate Trans Awareness Week for trans refugees and asylum seekers and we invited other individuals who are part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ refugee community,” Entrepreneur Empowerment and Advocacy Health Director Vanilla Hussein. “We had time to reflect on the memory of our friends we have lost and most recently Francis, who was murdered in Uganda.”

Hussein said the conditions in Kakuma made it unsafe for the group to hold an event in the refugee camp.

Two gay men in March 2021 suffered second-degree burns during an attack on Block 13 in Kakuma, which the U.N. Refugee Agency created specifically for LGBTQ and intersex refugees. One of them died a few weeks later at a Nairobi hospital. 

A report the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and Rainbow Railroad released in May 2021 indicates nearly all of the LGBTQ and intersex people who live in Kakuma have experienced discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. UNHCR in a statement after the March 15, 2021, attack noted Kenya “remains the only country in the region to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” even though consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

“Trans refugees continue to live in appalling conditions due to poor welfare, lack of access to jobs, affordable healthcare and opportunities in Kenya,” said Hussein. “Currently, some trans refugees and gender non-conforming refugees lack proper documentation.”

Hussein further noted NGOs “are not funded by the donors adequately because of bureaucratic hurdles and requirements to access funding such as bank statements, which have made it hard to get access to funds that can provide food, shelter, and relief emergency assistance.”

“To sum up, Kenya remains a threat to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community due to transphobia and homophobia,” said Hussein.

Alvin Mwangi, a reproductive rights activist, stressed trans people simply want basic human rights.

“Basic human rights are not special rights, the right to get and keep a job based on merit is not a special right, the right to be served food in a restaurant is not a special right, the right to have a roof over one’s head is not a special right, the right to walk down a street and not be attacked because of who you are and whom you love is not a special right,” said Mwangi. 

“The government of Kenya should ensure its laws and systems protect transgender persons just like any other citizen of Kenya against all forms of violence and discrimination,” added Mwangi. “The government of Kenya should commit to end all forms of violence and discrimination against transgender persons, by publicly condemning any major instances of homophobic and transphobic violence that occur in the counties and in the country in general.”

Mwangi also stressed trans people are “beautiful” and “deserve love.”

“We all have the right to live with dignity and respect,” said Mwangi. “As we just marked and celebrated the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes victims of transphobic violence, and as we continue to celebrate Transgender Awareness month until the end of November, we remember those in the transgender community who have lost their lives due to violence brought by hate and ignorance and we honor, celebrate, and advocate for the respect of the rights of transgender and gender diverse communities.”

“All transgender persons have a right to equality and freedom from discrimination of all forms. All transgender persons require equal protection against any form of violence,” added Mwangi. “The right to equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Africa

Uganda lawmaker: International agreement has ‘hidden clauses’ to promote homosexuality

Deputy Parliament Speaker Thomas Tayebwa made comment at Mozambique conference

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Deputy Uganda Parliament Speaker Thomas Tayebwa (Screen capture via Next Media Uganda YouTube)

Several LGBTQ and intersex rights groups in Uganda have sharply criticized Deputy Parliament Speaker Thomas Tayebwa’s assertion that an agreement between the European Union and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States has “hidden clauses” designed to promote homosexuality.

Tayebwa made the remarks during the 42nd session of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) — EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly that took place in Maputo, Mozambique, from Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

“We have discovered that with the Cotonou Agreement — an agreement between the EU and OACPS based on three complementary pillars: Development cooperation, economic and trade cooperation and the political dimension — there are hidden clauses concerning human rights,” said Tayebwa. “Clauses to do with sexuality, promotion of LGBT or homosexuality and clauses to do with abortion. We are a society that is not ready for homosexuality and we are a society that is not ready for abortion. It can never be accepted in Uganda.”

“It’s not a surprise to me and most of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community at large in Uganda that the deputy speaker of Parliament made such homophobic comments because the government he represents is homophobic too,” said Happy Family Uganda Executive Director Iga Isma. “According to me, he has no right to think about our own lifestyle. Everyone lives a life that they naturally want. If someone doesn’t eat meat, it does not mean that everyone doesn’t. I am in full support of donor countries to stop funding African countries that fail to legalize same sex relationships however, we might be affected too.” 

Pastor Ram Gava Kaggwa from Adonai Inclusive Christian Ministries, who is the executive director of Wave of Legacy Alliance Initiative Uganda, said sexual orientation does not have anything to do with whether one is African or not.

“Sexual orientation totally differs based on personal desires and wishes, it’s time to change the biased perspective on our sexual differences, just because you are practicing a different sexual narrative does not necessarily mean the other is wrong otherwise we are bound to see the spread of gender-based violence due to differences in sexual identity which may and can arise from hate speech spread through the heteronormative narrative which is taught in a manner that does not create room for respect of sexual differences,” said Kaggwa. “It is important to acknowledge the differences, variations and diversities of the community and modern-day society and respect each other regardless of such differences for we are all human and this is what exactly bonds us regardless of the different beliefs and values embodied in us.”

Kaggwa further encouraged lawmakers in Uganda and across Africa “to let and affirmatively acknowledge the rights and existence of 2SLGBTQIA+ persons and their rights at a common law level.” 

Buwande Anthony, executive director of the Uganda Youth Society for Human Rights, said Tayebwa does not speak for Africa since African countries are sovereign states with different legal systems.

“The remarks by the deputy speaker of the Parliament of Uganda can only be attributed to hypocrisy that is normally exhibited by government officials during overseas tours, if not, it was an act of ignorance of the provisions of the Constitution of Uganda,” noted Anthony. “Article 24 of the Ugandan Constitution and the Article of the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights provides against inhuman and degrading treatment. The above provisions have laid a foundation against any enactment by the state or individual initiatives against violation of individual human rights of citizens and non-citizens in Uganda.”

“Furthermore, Hon. Thomas Tayebwa cannot purport to speak for Africa since African countries are sovereign States which are governed by different legal dispensations, and whereas some African countries have moved a notch higher to respect their citizens’ human rights, others are still slow and struggling,” he added. “Therefore, it can only be fair that he speaks for Uganda where he is deputy speaker of Parliament.”

Uganda is among the African countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

President Yoweri Museveni in February 2014 signed into law a bill that sought to impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The Obama administration subsequently cut or redirected aid to Uganda and announced a travel ban against Ugandan officials responsible for human rights abuses. The World Bank also postponed a $90 million loan to the Ugandan government after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court subsequently struck down the law. 

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Ghana Parliament speaker: Harsh anti-LGBTQ bill will pass before presidential election

Advocacy group dismissed Alban Bagbin’s comment

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(Public domain photo)

Ghanaian Parliament Speaker Alban Bagbin on Oct. 28 told reporters a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ and intersex identity and allyship will pass before the next presidential election in 2024.

A cross-party group of MPs led by opposition MP Sam George, who is one of the country’s most prominent anti-LGBTQ and anti-intersex figures, first introduced the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill in March 2021. Lawmakers in August of that year considered it for the first time.

The bill, if passed, could see Ghanaians who identify as LGBTQ or intersex sentenced up to five years in prison. The measure would also criminalize cross-dressing, public affection between two people of the same sex, marriage among same-sex couples or the intent to marry someone who is the same sex.

The measure would criminalize corrective therapy or surgery for intersex people. 

Any person or group seen as promoting identities or prohibited acts in the bill or campaigning in support of LGBTQ and intersex people would face up to 10 years in prison. Any person who does not report consensual same-sex sexual acts could also face charges.

“The sexual rights and human values Bill that is being handled by the (Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) Committee will be passed before the next elections. We will pass it. That will go through,” Bagbin told reporters. “When we talk about sexual rights, we are talking about things that will add value to human beings by way of creating opportunities, of creating an equal playing ground of giving some privileges and rights to each and every one of us, of removing all the restriction and hurdles to make you more free. “

“That is what we call human rights. Anything negating that cannot be a right and don’t forget that rights go with responsibilities and duties go with obligations,” added Bagbin.

Abdul-Wadud Mohammed with LGBT+ Rights Ghana dismissed Bagbin’s comments.

“The statement from the speaker isn’t something new. He previously mentioned the passage of the bill by the end of 2021 and that didn’t happen,” said Mohammed. “Clearly, this is an attempt to divert attention from the current economic situation of the country. We already know the process for which the bill has to go through before it is passed and we are nowhere near the end of the process. We are following the bill closely. However, the situation of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Ghana is getting worse with this bill being discussed. We as LGBT+ Rights Ghana are putting in all the work and effort in making sure the bill is not passed.” 

The bill has received significant support from within Ghana, including from the Ghana Catholic Church.

The Ghana Anglican Church has described the bill as too severe. It has also been widely condemned around the world, including from NGOs and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are currently prohibited in Ghana under the Criminal Code 1960. This provision carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment and only men are criminalized under this law.

The law was inherited from the British during the colonial period, in which the English criminal law was imposed upon Ghana. The West African country then retained the provision in its first Criminal Code upon independence, which remains in force, and continues to criminalize homosexuality today.

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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