On 17 September 2020, media professional Anita Nderu came under attack solely for expressing her right to online freedom of expression on issues affecting people’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Nderu’s twitter post, which gained traction and topped the trending list, stated, ‘I hope my kids never have to go through what I have gone through for being LGBTQ+.’ Anita Nderu has a large following on various social media platforms, including Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.
“There continue to be attacks against people who promote and support free speech online about sexual orientation and gender in the Eastern Africa region. These attacks are especially problematic given the increased challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, on the economic and civil and political rights front. It is disappointing that online platforms continue to be used to confront and harass people who simply exercise their right to free expression online,” said Mugambi Kiai, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.
The rights to free expression, equality and non-discrimination are all protected under Kenya’s Constitution and major international and regional human rights instruments. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (or ICCPR) and Article 9, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights both promote the right of all persons to seek, receive, and impart information of any form, including information which others may find deeply offensive. Articles 2(1) and 26 of the ICCPR were interpreted by the HR Committee to include sexual orientation and gender identity as one of the protected grounds.
ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa (EA) and the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) consider the comments and subsequent messaging on Twitter a sad example of the continued division in Kenya, and the perpetuation of negative attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ community.
These comments, unfortunately, strengthen the concerns raised by the GALCK, which observed that Kenya’s legislative environment fails to offer protection ‘from discrimination based one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.’ GALCK further observed that ‘public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to LGBQ rights and religious fundamentalism is on the rise throughout the country.’ Indeed, many of the preliminary comments posted by Kenyans on Twitter referred to religious scripture, which was met by comments from individuals promoting self-determination and free expression online.
ARTICLE 19’s ‘Traditional values? Attempts to censor sexuality’ maintains that individuals’ sexual orientations and gender identities, and their expression of the same, is an ‘integral part of human condition, and should not be dictated or negotiated by the prejudice of majorities.’
For more information, please contact:
Mugambi Kiai – Regional Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa at [email protected]
Lorna Dias – Executive Coordinator, Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya at [email protected]