DR Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) could not hide his joy after a Nairobi court on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 refused to lift a ban on acclaimed Kenyan film Rafiki which portrays a lesbian romance.
Soon after the verdict was delivered by Justice J.A. Makau, Mutua openly celebrated the court decision.
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“We won against Kenya Breweries on beer adverts during the watershed period. We won against betting companies and now we’ve won a landmark case against a consortium of gay sympathisers on the gay film Rafiki by Wanuri Kahiu. I thank God and all the lecturers who taught me law!” he said.
Justice Makau in his judgement said that the ban does not in any way violate Artistic Freedom of Expression but instead protects the society from moral decay.
“The petitioners failed to prove how the existence of these sections of the law violated the right of expression,” he said.
According to Mutua, KFCB went against popular opinion and said no to homosexual content.
“We were labelled as homophobic and ostracised locally and internationally. But we stood for family values and what we believe to be in the best interest of Kenya. Family is the basic unit of society,” Mutua said.
On her part, filmmaker Wanuri expressed he disappointment with the verdict but said she would continue to fight for freedom of expression in Kenya.
“We are disappointed of course. But I strongly believe in the Constitution and we are not going to give up. I think it is very important for us to define what freedom of expression means in Kenya as per our Constitution. We are going to appeal. The ruling today is not a true reflection of what the constitution says,” she said.
Wanuri said she plans to take her petition to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, if necessary.
The film Rafiki (friend in Kiswahili) was banned by KFCB in April 2018 on the grounds that it promotes homosexuality in a country where gay sex is a criminal offence.
In banning Rafiki, KFCB relied on the Films and Stage Plays Act (Cap 222), a piece of legislation passed in 1962 by the colonial government to limit artistic post-colonial Kenya.
Rafiki has screened at more than 150 film festivals worldwide and has won more than 20 awards, including six audience choice awards.