Google has refused government demands to take down a gay music video in Kenya

In Kenya, not all love is equal.
In Kenya, not all love is equal.
Image: Same Love (Remix) by Art Attack
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Kenya’s attempt to stop people from watching a music video celebrating gay couples is backfiring. Three weeks after trying to ban a local rap artist’s remake of Same Love, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Google Kenya has refused to pull the video from YouTube, where it has now been viewed over 140,000 times.

Kenyan regulators banned the video in late February, claiming that the content threatens to turn the country into “Sodom and Gomorrah” and declaring that anyone caught distributing it would be punished. But the agency that banned it also retweeted a link to it—which ended up bringing more attention to Kenya’s nascent gay rights campaign.

The video, made by Art Attack, is a snapshot of being gay in Kenya, where homosexuality is considered an “unnatural offense” punishable by imprisonment up to 14 years in prison. The chorus, “I can’t change even if I tried,” plays over a montage of newspaper articles headlined, ”A disease worse than alcohol” and “Homos are filthy.”

The video cuts to images of anti-gay protests in Nairobi last year, ahead of US president Barack Obama’s visit, and two young women kissing on a bench in a forest, away from the public eye.

The video also features photos of the writer Binyavanga Wainaina, one of the few openly gay Kenyan public figures, as well as George Barasa, a Kenyan gospel artist who came out in 2013. ”Somebody has to stand and speak against what is going on,” Barasa told Reuters earlier this month.

A lawyer for Google Kenya told the Kenya Films Classification Board (KFCB), the country’s regulator of all visual content, that it cannot take down the video because it operates separately from YouTube, according to local media reports over the weekend.

A spokesperson for Google in the US told Quartz by email, ”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 and in keeping with our company philosophy on transparency and freedom of expression.”

Even the head of KFCB, Ezekiel Mutua admits that homosexuality is an evolving issue in Kenya. Matua told local media that the country is dealing with a “war of ideologies” and that if a homosexual man applied for a job with the regulator he would not be turned away.

“But if they kiss one another man in public,” he added, ”they will be condemned.”