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Kenya’s first lesbian film, based on the award-winning short story Jambula Tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko, has been banned from showing in its home country.

Despite being honoured to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Kenya’s notoriously homophobic Film Classification Board (KFPB) announced that Rafiki (which means ‘friend’) will not be allowed to be shown in the African nation.

Speaking in a statement, KFPB CEO Ezekial Mutua said that the film had been banned “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.”


As a result of the ruling, KFPB CEO Ezekial Mutua says that anyone who screens or distributes the film or is found in possession of a copy will face “severe penalties.”

This is not the first time Mutua has come under fire for his homophobic views, notably last year he demanded that two male lions seen having sex in a national park get counselling for their “abnormal behaviour.”

Matua, also suggested that the lions may have “learned to be gay” after watching a gay human couple having sex in the park.

The KFPB classification for Rafiki was deemed to be concluded due to “homosexual scenes that run counter to the law, the culture and moral values of the Kenyan people,” with the intention to “legitimise lesbianism in Kenya.”


Speaking with Reuters, the film’s director Wanuri Kahiu says that she was disappointed by the ban. “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.”

“So to then just ban a Kenyan film because it deals with something already happening in society just seems like a contradiction,” she added.

Rafiki has been described as a coming of age story about two Kenyan girls who fall in love and whose desire for each other flies in the face of African conventions.

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