The global tech giant refused to take down the video despite demands from government regulators.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, Google celebrated LGBT rights with a YouTube video showing coming-out stories and ending in same-sex marriages. Now in Kenya, where people can face up to 14 years in prison for same-sex relations, the company is showing its continued support by overruling regulators’ requests to take down that nation’s first gay music video.
Nearly three weeks after a government-run advisory board demanded that a local music video remix of the song “Same Love” by American hip-hop artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis be removed from the Internet, Google Kenya has fired back by refusing to pull the clip from YouTube.
The video, created by Kenyan rap artist collective Art Attack, highlights the struggles faced by that nation’s LGBT community. It depicts romantic and erotic scenes between young LGBT Kenyans, while integrating images of newspapers with offensive headlines like “Homos are filthy,” along with footage of last year’s antigay protests in Nairobi where protesters are seen getting blasted by water.
Pictures of well-known LGBT figures in Africa, such as openly gay Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, Ugandan lesbian activist Kasha Nabagesera, and South African bisexual singer Brenda Fassie, can be seen as well.
The Kenya Films Classification Board decided to ban the video in late February, flagging it for inappropriate content in violation of Kenya’s laws against homosexuality. Despite their efforts it remains on YouTube, where it now has nearly 150,000 views.
In an email to news agents, a Google Kenya spokesperson did not specifically address the controversy. “YouTube has clear policies that outline what content is acceptable to post and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users. We review government removal requests when notified through the correct legal processes,” wrote the spokesperson.
In Kenya, being openly gay is a criminal offense. People who attempt to have same-sex relations can be put in prison for up to seven years. Similarly, those who commit a “gross indecency” with a person of the same sex can face up to five years behind bars. And since LGBT people don’t have the same protections as other citizens under the law, many can fall victim to harassment, discrimination, and mob violence because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
“It’s not easy being an LGBT Person in Kenya,” Art Attack explained in a notice. “It’s a struggle against the state, against the society, against family, against friends.”
As a consequence of releasing the video, Art Attack wrote that there’s a warrant out for the collective’s arrest. One of the cast members fled to Tanzania in fear of reprisals and attacks in his hometown of Nairobi, where homophobia is widespread.
“We are basically even afraid to release new music, appear in public and even attend college since the girls in the video are both in a crowded public college and it has not been easy for them at all,” wrote the group.
“We live in a constant fear of arrests or attacks.”
Despite this, Art Attack wrote that it’s leaving the video up on YouTube.
“It’s tough out here being gay, but we try to manage and to hold up by either keeping a low profile, avoiding publicizing ourselves, going public about our status and such stuff,” Art Attack added. “But the song we did is helping greatly in changing the narrative and we hope things will be better.”