In Kenya, where homosexuality is illegal and those in the LGBT community are often treated with contempt and discriminated against, a music video featuring members of the gay community is causing controversy. The video, a remix of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' song "Same Love," was banned by the Kenyan government weeks ago, but Google Kenya is rejecting calls to take the video down from YouTube.
When authorities declared the video illegal in February, they inadvertently drew more attention to it. The video by local bad group Art Attack shows male and female same-sex relationships — an offense punishable by up to 14 years in prison — as well as images of anti-gay protests in the capital Nairobi from last year and inflammatory anti-gay newspaper headlines such as "A Disease 'Worse Than Alcohol.'"
"We created this video first and foremost because we are artists and also because we were very much alive to the great challenges and tribulations that LGBT persons go through in Kenya and Africa as a whole," Art Attack told A Plus, adding that they were also motivated by Uganda's draconian anti-gay stance and similar attitudes in other African countries.
"We hoped that by doing this song, we would change how society views us, spur the government to repeal some of its laws and decriminalize homosexuality and also create an environment of acceptance and coexistence between straight Kenyans and their gay counterparts."
Despite the ban on same-sex relationships in Kenya, the video has garnered more than 140,000 views within a month. "This video contains imagery and a message that may be unnecessarily offensive to some," its description on YouTube reads.
Anthony Oluoch, executive director of Gay Kenya Trust, told Reuters that using art as a tool for advocacy should be encouraged.
"[Kenya Film Classification Board] is stifling our people's creativity by refusing to let people see films and music videos that have a message," he said. "We are not advocating for war; we are just advocating for love and acceptance and allowing people to live their lives."
A spokesperson for Google in the U.S. told Quartz:
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.
"We obviously greatly applaud Google Kenya for choosing to have the video still stay up on YouTube all this time. We deeply appreciate that they didn't bulge and didn't give in to the government threats and orders and decided to do what is right and let people express themselves freely without having to have their rights trampled upon," Art Attack said.
LGBT rights in Kenya are almost nonexistent, and the country, like many others in Africa, has harsh anti-gay laws (excluding South Africa, which was one of the first countries in the world to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation). President Obama's visit last year spotlighted the issue when he remarked that Kenya's anti-gay discrimination was akin to the U.S.' discrimination against African Americans.
"We remain unbowed and unshakeable," Art Attack asserted. "We remain at the forefront of fighting for the rights of the LGBT persons and nothing will deter us or shake us or make us give up this artistic activism."