The Constitutional and Human Rights court of Kenya has upheld a screening ban on the award-winning Kenyan film Rafiki.

Justice J. A Makau ruled that the ban by the Kenya Film Classification Board on the 2018 film, “does not in any way violate Artistic Freedom of Expression, but instead protect the society from moral decay.” 

He also added that the petitioner- Filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu failed to prove how the existence of the ban violated the freedom of expression. The case was dismissed with costs.

Wanuri expressed her disappointment in the court’s decision saying that she still believes the ban contravened article 33 of the constitution which allows any Kenyan to express themselves through artistic creativity.

“We believe that the sections of the Film and Stages Play Act (Cap 222) and the Kenya Film Classification Board’s (KFCB) Guidelines used to ban the film violate Article 33 of the Constitution of Kenya.” 

Wanuri on her official Twitter said that the ruling was a sad blow for freedom of expression and freedom of speech in Kenya and she would take the case to the court of appeal.

The movie centres around a love story between two Kenyan girls, Kena and Ziki living in Nairobi. The story takes us through the resilience of their love despite the conservative society they live in, bringing to light the subject of LGBTQ rights in Kenya.

Wanuri Kahiu and the Creative Economy Working Group (CEWG) had sued the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) and its CEO Ezekiel Mutua on their decision to ban the film Rafiki.

KFCB had banned the film in Kenya apparently on the grounds that the film’s producer had declined to remove what the board defined as offensive classifiable elements. KFCB had claimed that Romantic scenes depicting the lead actors as lesbians in the film were absent in the script submitted for licensing. They also added that the objective of the film was to normalize homosexuality in Kenya with the story celebrating the resilience of the youngsters involved in lesbianism.

The ban was lifted by the court for seven days to allow the film to be screened and become eligible to be submitted as Kenya’s entry for the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language film at the 91st Academy Awards.

At the time Justice Winfrida Okwany granted conservatory orders, allowing for the showing of Rafiki film to Kenyans, in a decision to safeguard freedom of expression and freedom of artistic creativity.

While giving the order, Justice Okwany said “The matter before this court is if a filmmaker can address a gay theme. This theme has been addressed elsewhere and artistic creativity allows artists to stir society. I am not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that it cannot handle a gay theme.”

The temporary lift of the ban enabled the film to be screened in Kenya for seven days, giving Kenyans from all walks of life the chance to watch it. Rafiki became Kenya’s first movie to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. It also boasts of 16 awards and 18 nominations in various film awards.