Kenya’s High Court began hearing a case that may decriminalize homosexuality.
It’s a significant step in East Africa, where homosexuality is illegal in almost every country in the region and in 38 countries in total across the continent, according to Amnesty International.
“The fact that we are being heard is an indicator that our democracy has come of age,” said Eric Gitari, a Harvard-educated lawyer and founder of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, one of the organizations which brought forward the case in 2016.
The case opened Friday in a crowded Nairobi courtroom. The judges had to change to a different room to accommodate the large crowd.
“The judges know the entire world is watching,” Gitari said.
Kenyan law currently prohibits “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” labeling it a felony that is punishable with 14 years in prison.
The case argues that this law, which can be traced to British colonial law from the turn of the century, is unconstitutional.
“We are hopeful,” Gitari said. “The judgment is going to give guidance to countries across Africa. It’s going to encourage activists in so many African countries, it’s going create a ripple effect.”