Nairobi — Kenya’s high court has refused to scrap laws criminalising gay sex on Friday, in a blow to the LGBT community that was criticised by rights groups and the UN as a major step backwards for equality in the east African powerhouse. Gay rights organisations had hoped Kenya would follow a global trend toward easing legal restrictions on homosexuality, with landmark legal decisions seen in India and Taiwan, while three African nations have recently overturned anti-gay laws. But three years after they filed their petition, the high court ruled on Friday that laws criminalising homosexuality were not unconstitutional, leaning heavily on concerns about culture and family values in Kenya, a deeply Christian country. “We find the impugned sections [of the penal code] are not unconstitutional. We hereby decline the relief sought and dismiss the consolidated petition,” said Roselyne Aburili, presiding over a three-judge bench.

Inside the packed courtroom, gay couples held hands a...

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