Kenya bans Cannes-selected film

Rafiki would "promote lesbianism," say censors

by Jennie Kermode


It's the first ever Kenyan feature film selected to screen at Cannes, but Wanuri Kahiu's Rafiki (also known as Friend) has been banned in its home country, it emerged today. Set to feature in the Un Certain Regard line-up, it has attracted the ire of the censorship body "due to its homosexual theme and clear intention to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law".

Strictly speaking, sexual activity between women is not illegal in Kenya, but legal arguments have been made that it should be considered subject to the same laws criminalising sexual activity between men. There is little public sympathy for LGBT people compared with other countries in East Africa.

Kahiu has defended her film and pointed out that the decision will not prevent Kenyans seeing representations of lesbianism in foreign films, which are rarely banned, or through online streaming services. She has previously stated that the film was inspired by Monica Arac de Nyeko’s novel Jambula Tree, which tells the story of a relationship between two young Ugandan women.

Ezekiel Matua, in a statement released by the Kenya Film Classification Board of which he is CEO, claimed that it was not clear from the initial script submitted to the board that the central romance was between women

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