Kenya has banned a lesbian love story that’s about to debut at Cannes
Kenyan authorities have banned a film about two lesbians that has been picked to debut at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
Rafiki, which means friend in KiSwahili, is about two Kenyan girls who fall in love and must contend with the country’s stigma towards homosexuality.
The film’s synopsis reads: “Kena and Ziki long for something more. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls resist and remain close friends, supporting each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society.
“When love blossoms between them, the two girls will be forced to choose between happiness and safety.”
The film is the first Kenyan feature to be played at the prestigious festival, which will run from May 9 – 18.
Despite its critical success internationally, the film has been less well received within Kenya.
On Friday, the Kenyan Film Classification Board (KFCB) tweeted that it had made the decision to ban the distribution of the film nationally.
The KFCB wrote: “‘Rafiki should not be distributed, exhibited within the Republic of Kenya. Anyone found in possession will be in breach of the law.”
KFCB spokesperson Nelly Muluka later added: “Our culture and laws recognise family as the basic unit of society.
“We cannot, therefore, allow lesbian content to be accessed by children in Kenya.”
Rafiki director Wanuri Kahiu condemned the decision of the KFCB.
She wrote: “I am incredibly sorry to announce that our film Rafiki has been banned in Kenya.
“We believe adult Kenyans are mature and discerning enough to watch local content but their right has been denied.”
Kahiu told Reuters: “I’m really disappointed because Kenyans already have access to watch films that have LGBT content, on Netflix, and in international films shown in Kenya and permitted by the classification board itself.”
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“So to then just ban a Kenyan film because it deals with something already happening in society just seems like a contradiction.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been president of the African country for five years, said that being gay is “not acceptable” and “not agreeable” in Kenyan culture, and that LGBT+ rights are “of no importance” in his country.
Sharing his views with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last Friday, the leader said that he wanted to be “very clear” regarding his stance on LGBT+ rights.
“I want to be very clear. I will not engage in a subject that is not of any major importance to the people and the Republic of Kenya.
“This is not an issue as you would want to put it, of human rights – this is an issue of society. It is an issue of our own base, our own culture as a people,” he said in the interview.
Watch the Rafiki trailer below: