Thursday, June 15, 2017

Stop the KFCB before it is too late

On the 15th June, the Kenya Film Classification Board published a statement regarding complaints it had received concerning children programming on television whose access to it by children it has declared to be "prohibited". 

The Board's grounds for the prohibition include that the television programmes are "deliberately designed to corrupt the moral judgement of children regarding the institution of the family", that they "contain elements that are intended to introduce children to deviant behaviour, against our moral values and understanding of the institution of the family", and that "homosexuality goes against our Kenya's moral values and culture".

The Board bases its "prohibition" on the provisions of the Constitution, the Penal Code and the KFCB Content Classification Guidelines. It declares that the Constitution, at Article 45, "defines marriage as a union of persons of the opposite gender", that sections 162 to 165 of the Penal Code "criminalises homosexual behaviour and attempted homosexual behaviour, referring to it as 'carnal knowledge against the order of nature' ", and that section 181 "prohibits the distribution and exhibition of indecent content, with the potential to corrupt morals".

First, as I have pointed out here that the KFCB has no authority to ban the broadcast of television shows; its mandate, under section 46I of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998 is to certify films (and, I suppose, television shows) that will be broadcast on TV; it is the Communications Authority that may prohibit a broadcaster from airing any programme on TV in Kenya.

Second, the KFCBfails to define key terms that it relies on to justify its usurpation of the authority of the Communications Authority. It has also failed to prove its allegations; it wishes for us to rely on its judgment based on its authority on the welfare, safety and care of children. Take its declaration that the offending television shows are intended to introduce children to "deviant" behaviour. The Board fails to show how it arrived at a judgment of deviancy in relation to depictions of homosexuality.

Once upon a time, psychiatric practice, especially in western nations, classified homosexuality as deviant and prescribed interventions to correct the deviancy, almost always with devastating psychological effects that psychologically and physically harmed their victims. Today, "corrective" programmes intended to "turn" homosexuals straight are the preserve of fringe religious sects; no one seriously holds the view that homosexual thoughts or acts are deviant acts. Moreover, even the Government of Kenya, while it still holds the official view that "carnal knowledge against the order of nature is a criminal offence", it hasn't prosecuted the offence in almost thirty years. In a nation that has changed considerably over the past three decades in terms of individual rights and fundamental freedoms, the State would find it very difficult to do so today.

What the Board intends, so far as I can tell, is to police what we think, how we think and how we publish what we think. It, not to put too fine a point to it, wants to police though, expression, ideas and the nebulous concept of "morality", arrogating upon itself the power to determine what is "wholesome" and what isn't. It will fail. The risk of its crusade is that it will eventually expand its inquisition beyond homosexuality into the realm of all our civil and political rights, playing the role of the much-discredited KANU Disciplinary Committee that was responsible for so much State abuse between 1969 and 1990 when scores of Kenyans were arrested, unlawfully detained tortured or even killed for attempting to exercise especially their political rights against the wishes of the ruling party.

I have warned that we allow the Board a free hand to our own ultimate suffering. We must stand up to stand its crusading chief executive. Today, to paraphrase Martin Niemöller, they come for the homosexuals; if we don't stop them, they will come for us all.

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