Kenyan authorities have banned a film that tells the love story of two women on the grounds that it promotes lesbianism but activists said the ban would only promote interest in the movie.
“Rafiki”, a word that means friend in KiSwahili, was this week invited to premiere at the May Cannes Film festival the first Kenyan film to receive such an invite. The Kenya Film Classification Board announced the ban on Friday and said in a tweet: “Anyone found in its possession will be in breach of law”, referring to a colonial-era Kenyan law under which gay sex is punishable by 14 years in jail.
Board spokeswoman Nelly Muluka tweeted: “Our culture and laws recognise family as the basic unit of society. “The (board) cannot, therefore, allow lesbian content to be accessed by children in Kenya.”
Film director Wanuri Kahiu said: “I’m really disappointed because Kenyans already have access to watch films that have LGBT content, on Netflix, and in international films shown in Kenya and permitted by the classification board itself. So to then just ban a Kenyan film because it deals with something already happening in society just seems like a contradiction,” she told Reuters.
The ban represents a reversal by the board whose head, Ezekiel Mutua, praised the film earlier this month. “It is a story about the realities of our time and the challenges that our kids are facing especially with their sexuality,” he said on privately-owned HOT 96 FM radio.