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UN Report: Rafiki and Beyond: Political Restrictions on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Freedoms in Kenya and Uganda  (2024)

ReportOUT was delighted to submit a paper in response to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commission’s call for papers on the subject of restrictions on sexual and gender minorities’ (SOGI) human rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association.  

We are thrilled that the UN’s final report, presented by the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the UN Human Rights Council in June – July 2024, cited ReportOUT’s input four times. We hope by drawing attention to the restrictions to core freedoms faced by LGBTQ+ communities in Kenya and Uganda will allow bodies such as the UN to apply pressure to remind these states that their core human rights obligations cannot be applied selectively. 

ReportOUT UN Response - Restrictions on LGBTQ+ Freedoms.png

Please read and download this report (opens in PDF) by clicking here

Report summary:

Part of the UN’s broader monitoring of LGBTQI+ Human Rights, the report in question will serve as ‘an examination of the root causes of violence and discrimination, the Independent SOGI Expert report will focus on trends in relation to laws, policies, and practices that unlawfully restrict, explicitly or implicitly, freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly based on SOGI. The report will also examine the impact of such restrictions on civil society, with a particular focus on civil society groups and individuals advocating for the enjoyment of those human rights free from discrimination based on SOGI.’ The report was published in 2024.


A team of two ReportOUT researchers, Arnold Ochieng from Kenya and Daniel Santos from Portugal, constructed a paper, focused on Kenya and Uganda as case studies to demonstrate specific examples of state bodies restricting the basic rights of SOGI communities in the themes of freedom of expression (the banning of films with queer content such as the ‘Rafiki’ of our report’s title), association (restrictions on NGOs supporting SOGI communities) and assembly (bans on Pride marches or the ‘Queer Kampala film festival’ – events which celebrate SOGI identities). 


The report demonstrates that restrictions take the form of both direct legislation, such as Uganda’s odious 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) and vaguer bills which appear to protect the family but can easily be interpreted as an attack upon these core rights of SOGI individuals within both states. Despite Kenya recently permitting an NGO with the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ to register, state bodies in both countries continue to restrict registration of such organisations.  Indeed, supporting or fundraising for a charity or NGO supporting SOGI rights is now illegal in Uganda under the AHA. Freedom of expression restrictions manifest as creative media (books, films) with SOGI themes being censored or barred from publication. The ban on Rafiki being distributed in Kenya is illustrative of such restrictions: 

‘The Board notes with great concern that the said film objectionable classifiable elements such as homosexual practices that run counter to the laws and culture of Kenyan people. It is our considered view that the moral of the story in this film is to legitimize lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law and the Board’s content classification guidelines.’  

Our report illustrates the systemic nature of such discrimination, which runs contrary to both countries’ constitutions which guarantee such basic freedoms and both countries’ commitments as members of the UN.   Ultimately, such policies only serve to damage their own people and hinder both countries’ abilities to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for the benefit of all their citizenry, including sexual and gender minorities.  ReportOUT is proud to contribute to the UN Office of the High Commissioner’s report and will continue to stand with sexual and gender minorities around the globe. 

Another ReportOUT Success!

Our report was a success!

This research was cited four times in the report presented to the United Nations at the Human Rights Council!

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