A woman wearing a rainbow flag walks between Christian members of the Sozo church of God as they hold anti-LGBTQ signs and sing against homosexuality after a verdict on scrapping laws criminalising homosexuality in front of the Milimani high court in Nairobi. Picture: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP
A woman wearing a rainbow flag walks between Christian members of the Sozo church of God as they hold anti-LGBTQ signs and sing against homosexuality after a verdict on scrapping laws criminalising homosexuality in front of the Milimani high court in Nairobi. Picture: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP

Kenya’s constitution is a paean to liberal values: human dignity, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, nondiscrimination and protection of the marginalised. Unless you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, it would seem.

In the same month that Brazil moved to criminalise homophobia and transphobia, and Taiwan legalised gay marriage, the Supreme Court of Kenya upheld a colonial-era law criminalising same-sex relations. Quite astoundingly, the court said the petitioners had not shown that the law violates the LGBTQ+ community’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to health, dignity and privacy.

It’s not enough to say the matter is largely moot because the law is infrequently enforced. As Human Rights Watch points out, the simple fact of discrimination plays out in broader violations: violence on the basis of sexual orientation; a reluctance to take such matters to the authorities; and differential treatment by the authorities when it is reported.

So much for the equality and rule of law trumpeted in Kenya’s constitution. Never mind dignity and privacy.

We ought to treat states that routinely violate the human rights of their citizens as pariahs. This is what should be happening to Kenya. South Africans should shun travelling there, and should shun doing business there.