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The Supreme Court of Kenya has upheld a 2015 High Court ruling that grants the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) the right to be legally registered as a Non-Government Organisation.

The decision marks the end of a decade-long legal battle, during which the NGLHRC faced repeated rejections due to the presence of the words “lesbian” and “gay” in its name.

The Non-Governmental Organisations Coordination Board argued that it could not register the organisation due to Kenya’s penal code, which criminalises homosexual acts. However, The Supreme Court ruled that the right to freedom of association is inherent in everyone, regardless of whether their views are popular, and that popular conceptions of morality should not be used to limit fundamental rights.

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“Given that the right to freedom of association is a human right, vital to the functioning of any democratic society as well as an essential prerequisite enjoyment of other fundamental rights and freedoms, we hold that this right is inherent in everyone irrespective of whether the views they are seeking to promote are popular or not…” the Judges stated in the decision.

“As such, we agree with the reasoning of the High Court that just like everyone else, LGBTQ have a right to freedom of association which includes the right to form an association of any kind,” the Judges added.

Following the ruling, The NGLHRC described the court’s decision as “a victory” for Kenya’s LGBTIQ+ community.

“This affirmation by the supreme court of the land is especially necessary at a time when the rights of the people who NGLHRC intends to protect are particularly threatened; it emboldens our resolve as a community to agitate for a better Kenya for all of us,” NGLHRC’s Executive Director Njeri Gateru explained.

Homosexuality remains criminalised in Kenya thanks to colonial-era laws referencing “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency,” under which LGBTIQ+ people can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

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