Kenya: Court orders government to register gay rights group

Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they stage a rare protest, against Uganda's increasingly tough stance against homosexuality and in solidarity with their counterparts there, outside the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Feb. 10, 2014.

Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they stage a rare protest, against Uganda's increasingly tough stance against homosexuality and in solidarity with their counterparts there, outside the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. Ben Curtis, AP

Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they stage a rare protest, against Uganda's increasingly tough stance against homosexuality and in solidarity with their counterparts there, outside the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Feb. 10, 2014.Ben Curtis, AP

Kenyan gays and lesbians and others supporting their cause wear masks to preserve their anonymity as they stage a rare protest, against Uganda‘s increasingly tough stance against homosexuality and in solidarity with their counterparts there, outside the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Feb. 10, 2014.

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan judges on Monday ordered a government agency to register a human rights group representing the country’s gay people.

The Kenyan constitution recognizes and protects the rights of minorities, the three judges of the High Court said in their ruling. The Non-Governmental Organization Co-ordination Board had refused to register the rights group on religious and moral grounds.

The Attorney General, the NGO Board and religious groups had opposed the registration of the gay association but the judges said the Kenyan Constitution does not allow limitation of rights on moral or religious grounds.

“In Kenya, the Constitution is supreme,” stated the ruling of Judges Isaac Lenaola, Mumbi Ngugi and George Odunga. The judges said the state “cannot rely on religious texts or its views of what the moral and religious convictions of Kenyans are to justify the limitation of a right.”

Rights activist Eric Gitari tried to register the non-governmental organization whose objective is to address the violence and human rights abuses suffered by gay and lesbian people. Gitari wanted the NGO board to reserve the names Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council; Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Observancy and Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Organization for purposes of registration of his organization. The board rejected these names and three other alternatives Gitari came up with.

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After the NGO Co-ordination Board rejected Gitari’s application, he went to court in September 2013 claiming that his rights had been infringed.

In Kenya, gay sex is a crime, the law forbids sodomy and same sex partners are likely to receive extra attention from police. The Kenya gay community has complained of harassment, which in some cases is violent.

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