Kenyan Court Upholds Ban on Rafiki Film

Rafiki Named ‘Outstanding Film’ at The 2020 GLAAD Media Awards

Kenyan High Court upheld the ban on Rafiki film by dismissing a petition filed by film producer Wanuri Kahiu.

Justice J.A. Makau in his ruling on the matter on Petition 313/2018 WanuriKahiu vs. KFCB said the petition failed and was found to be without merit. 

“The exercise of discretion of the Board in restricting the film “Rafiki” is constitutional and valid”, the judge ruled.

In the judgment delivered on 29th April 2020, the court dismissed Wanuri’s petition while upholding the decision of the Board to restrict the film stating that the impugned provisions of the Act were constitutional. 

“The petitioner has failed to prove her case, and therefore, her case is without merit.” 

The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) banned the film in May 2018 citing that it promotes lesbianism contrary to the law. The movie was adapted from Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko’s “Jambula Tree”, and it was the 1st Kenyan film to screen at Cannes.

According to KFCB, the film was altered to promote homosexuality contrary to the Films and Stage Plays Act Cap 222 of the Laws of Kenya, the Penal Code and the Constitution of Kenya (2010) which defines marriage as a “union between two people of the opposite gender.”


However, the ruling has elicited different reactions from the public.

Prof. Makau Mutua, in a tweet, says, “Whether you are straight, gay, or asexual, you should condemn the decision by Kenyan courts to ban Rafiki, the acclaimed movie that’s won accolades all over the globe.”

In response, Kenya’s “moral policeman” Dr. Ezekiel Mutua quoted part of Justice Makau’s ruling that stated, “Freedom of Expression must be practiced within the confines of the law. Production and promotion of homosexual content in Kenya abuses this right and must not be promoted in the guise of human rights.”

According to Dr. Mutua, “Before banning her film, the KFCB met Wanuri and requested her to delete a small portion of her movie which she calls “happy ending” but which in essence glorifies homosexuality against the law. She defied the Board and went to court.”

“Prof. There’s a difference between gay rights and human rights. I will defend the dignity of a gay person, but I will ban a film promoting homosexuality as our way of life,” says Dr. Mutua.

Martha Karua, an Advocate of the High Court said, “…Enjoyed watching this well-acted and great production by Wanuri. Our double standards on what is appropriate/acceptable for viewing is our undoing.”

In 2019, Rafiki bagged two awards at the Africa Movies Academy Awards 2019 (AMAA) for the Best Achievement in Editing and Best Film in an African Language.

The petition had been dismissed with costs to the Board.