The Republic of Kenya is situated between Somalia and Uganda. The population is largely Christian (82%), with a large Muslim minority (11%), as well as a growing non-religious number (2.4%), with other religious minorities making up the rest of the population. In recent years, there has been growing terrorist violence in Kenya, which in part has contributed to new laws that put restrictions on press and speech freedoms. Kenya requested full membership to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2011.

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

In 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution that stated there would be no state religion and lays out a secular system of law. The constitution appears to ensure many rights regarding speech, press, and freedom of religion or belief. However, there have still been reports of discrimination within society, with larger religious groups marginalizing smaller ones.

The Constitution also allows Kadhis’ courts to be used where all parties concerned describe themselves as Muslims. These courts are permitted to make rulings on matters relating to personal status, marriage, divorce and inheritance. But there is no mechanism for ensuring that vulnerable persons of Muslim background will not be pressured into using these courts. This includes individuals who may not even be Muslim but are socially pressured to conform anyway.

Family, community and society

Echoing moves by mainstream politics in other Africa states, such as neighbouring Uganda, Kenyan MPs from a fringe party have proposed a bill that would make homosexuality illegal and punishable by life in prison or in some cases stoning to death.

Homophobia and transphobia is common. “Openly gay or transgender people are vulnerable to physical violence, harassment and intimidation. Denis Nzioka, of Gay Kenya, told ERT that he had received death threats because he was openly gay.”

Achieng Maureen Akena argues: “This link between religion and oppression is particularly visible today in Kenya, where the public’s religious adherence is increasing with rising poverty and insecurity. My country’s television and radio stations cover religion more frequently than before, even as Kenyans decry their radically increasing cost of living, ongoing unemployment, and rising physical insecurity. Kenya’s official 50th anniversary celebrations, moreover… included more religious content than any of our previous Independence Day festivities.”

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Atheists in Kenya are vastly in the minority, both to the Christian majority and the smaller Muslim population, but non religious numbers are growing. Atheists do get occasionally receive representation on public platforms, such as the president of the group Atheists in Kenya appearing on national radio, though it is rare.

The Kenyan Information and Communications Amendment Bill in 2013 introduced strong controls on radio and television broadcasts. Human Rights Watch commented:

“These new laws are an attempt to undermine freedoms of expression and association in Kenya. Kenya’s leaders should act swiftly to prevent these bills from becoming law and focus on the country’s real challenges, like police reform and accountability.”

— Daniel Bekele, Africa director

In 2014, there were concerns around escalating hate speech. Radio and television channels have been warned not to air anything that could escalate growing tribal violence. The campaign group Article 19 have expressed their concern over these laws, and other media groups have labeled them as “ruthless”, “draconian”, and are seen by some as a gag on the press.

In 2014 several journalists reported being harassed and receiving threats over their coverage of the ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) case against three high-profile suspects—including President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto—accused of crimes against humanity in relation to the 2007–08 post election violence. In one case, a journalist felt compelled to flee the country after being routinely followed and monitored by unknown individuals.

Highlighted cases

In 2016, the group Atheists in Kenya (an IHEU Member Organization) was initially denied formal registration as a recognised association on the grounds that “The Registrar has reasonable cause to believe that the interests of peace welfare [sic] or good order in Kenya would be likely to suffer prejudice by reason of your registration as a Society.” The group dismissed the assessment as a kind of “guesswork” and deemed the decision an act of “blatant discrimination”. AIK threatened to take the registrar to court to overturn the decision. The registration was then accepted, only to be suspended again by the Attorney-General, reportedly under pressure from religious groups. AiK again threatened legal action against the suspension.


“I don’t know what my family has a harder time accepting, my atheism or my orientation. I came out as an atheist when I was 17 and when I told them I was gay later on, they concluded that I’m gay because I don’t believe in god.

It’s been really hard being a gay atheist because I’m an assertive person who doesn’t run away from debate. I’ve lost many friends and been blocked and deleted on Facebook. I’ve been betrayed by family (a relative complained to my father and demanded I be reprimanded for my orientation). I’ve been drugged and raped because I came out to someone I thought was my friend, but I felt like no one was going to believe me so I never spoke about it after it happened, I just never spoke to my attacker again. I’ve been ignored by family members who I used to be really close to because they know I’m a gay atheist.

… I’m still forced to go to church when my mother wants me to which is very uncomfortable because she truly believes that if she forces me to go to church, I’ll go back to being a “straight Christian”.

… My sexuality and religious views are not the problem, it’s the religious intolerance and homophobia that has the problem. Changing their perception of me is not easy because they’ve been brainwashed, so I stopped trying.  … The thing with homophobia and religious people is that they hate what makes them feel uncomfortable and victimise whoever’s different. But I’ll never stop voicing my opinions because I am a person with rights and I hope to be respected more one day.”

— Dorothy