Kenya Film Classification Board bans an all-female event, labelling it a ‘lesbian orgy’

When women gather, one of two things will happen: There will be gossiping or an orgy. This is the line of thinking that Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of the Kenya Film Classification Board, seems to have followed when he issued a statement banning a ‘girls only’ event that was set to happen in Nairobi, Kenya. According to Mutua, the event was ‘seeking to bring together women for the purposes of engaging in group sex’.

In a statement released on his Facebook page, Mutua stated: “We wish to bring to the attention of the public that the lesbian hook-up party has been banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board.” His statement goes on to outline that any breach of this was to be met with “the full force of the law” and “the police has been notified” of the pending event.

IMG-20160801-WA0012Furthermore, he says, the phrase ‘girls only’ being used on promotional material further implied that the event would be ‘an orgy of lesbians’ – causing one to question every women’s brunch, breast cancer drive and women empowerment seminar one has ever been to.

So many pancakes, so little pleasure, in my experience.

A frivolous use of resources

This visceral reaction was prompted by a speed-dating event, which is essentially a meet-and-greet on hyperdrive. With crime and extra-judicial killings proving to be a real national problem, this seems like a frivolous use of resources. It is also somewhat confusing; after all, what does the KFCB have to do with an event of this nature? One woman wondered ‘what the Kenya Film Classification Board had to do with hang-outs’. Another noted that the KFCB acted beyond its mandate by seeking to police the event, saying this was an example of the way in which governing bodies acted irresponsibly. They were in effect endangering the lives of those citizens who would be needing the assistance of police while they were occupied at an event the intentions of which had been completely misconstrued.

Barbra Wangare, the executive director of East Africa Trans Health and Advocacy Network (EATHAN.org), said, “It is perplexing that this event [was banned by] by the Kenya Film Classification Board. It is even more perplexing when you realise that the KFCB has no mandate over events and parties.”

The truth is much more boring than the fiction

The gathering was framed as a speed-dating event to be held at a popular night spot in the capital, one that has a reputation for hosting a diverse clientele and also for making a mean cocktail. The problem with the framing of the event as an ‘orgy’ is that it sexualises a gathering that never purported to be sexual in nature. When I spoke to a few queer Kenyan women about this matter, some stated that they simply wanted to go and meet new people, while others lamented the inability to break out of their immediate circles.

The matter has had a public spin-off and the conversation has gone offline, featuring in the Standard newspaper. In addition, ‘exposés’ of the life of a ‘Nairobi lesbian’ has appeared in newspapers. The rumour mill has gone into overdrive and tales of other ‘secret parties’, gatherings and sex shenanigans have emerged.

The truly disappointing fact (depending on what you were looking for) is that all of this is far from the truth. This is despite the fact that lesbians struggle with the same dating and courtship taboos as the rest of society. Have a conversation with any average lesbian and you will hear tales of staying in to watch TV, crying over a long-distance Skype call, going on dates and wondering where you will find love in a world of WhatsApp, sliding into Twitter DMs and Snapchat and Instagram filters.

The reality of these meetings is not quite this.
The reality of these meetings is not quite this.

Indeed, the truth is far less interesting than people would like. Swinging and sex parties actually tend to be more prevalent in heterosexual ‘monogamous’ partnerships, with wife swapping and swingers clubs being a real thing. Want a sex party? Then ask that upstanding neighbour of yours who is also at your PTA meetings. If lesbians are having orgies, many of them do not know about it.

The fact that women gathering by themselves in a meet-and-greet should become an automatic orgy shows that there is at work a deeper, more macabre cognitive framework regarding notions of female sexuality and the sexualities of others. This policing of certain bodies is a continuation of current events sweeping the country and the region in general, following the court case that resulted in allowing anal testing to determine sexuality and, in Tanzania, banning sexual lubricants as a ‘crack down on gays’. It is a continuation of actions not based on fact or on respect for human dignity but on misconceptions, bigotry and some seriously dicey medical and sociological knowledge.

One can call this a number of things: a desperate case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and fragile masculinity, a need to justify one’s salary, or a complete and utter waste of state resources and time. One cannot deny the frivolity and absurdity of the entire situation and the way in which it continues to escalate in a whirlwind of conversations, ‘exposés’ and myths. This is simply another case of an overreaction based on a series of myths and misconceptions that do much more harm than good.

Also read this piece about how the LGBTI community in Africa is emerging and expressing itself.

This piece was first published This Is Africa.

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