Banned Kenyan Lesbian Movie Wins Best Actress Award

The movie Rafiki, that was previously banned in Kenya for its portrayal of a lesbian romance is now racking in the accolades.  Kenyan actress Samantha Mugatsia won the award for best actress at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco) in Burkina Faso on Saturday. Mugatsia played the lead character Kena.

Rafiki which is an acclaimed film portraying a lesbian romance saw the Kenya Film Classification Board banning it over its homosexual theme. The director moved to court in a bid to lift the ban so that she could screen it in Kenya being one of the requirements for submitting it for the Oscars Awards.

The film which has received accolades and condemnation in the same measure tells the story of a romantic lesbian couple in the Kenyan set up which is not the norm. Justice Wilfrida Okwany lifted the ban temporarily for seven days for adults only so that Kahiu could qualify to submit to the Oscars. Although the lifting of the ban was temporary, this was a celebrated win for the LGBT movement as, for the first time in Kenyan history, an LGBT –focused movie was screened with consent and support from the courts of law.

Rafiki is inspired by the 2007 Caine Prize short story winner "Jambula Tree" by Ugandan writer Monica Arac Nyeko, and focuses on a friendship and tender love that grows between two young women amidst family and political pressures.

It should be remembered that the Rafiki hearing is one of the legal cases set precedence for the #Repeal162 case that has the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, an independent human rights body challenging sections of the Kenyan Penal Code that make consensual same sex acts between adults punishable with up to 14 years’ imprisonment.