BTB has just learned that the Rwandan Parliament is scheduled to take up consideration of a change to Rwanda’s penal code which would criminalize homosexuality with a punishment of five to ten years. It would also ban counselling and advocacy that could be interpreted as “encouraging or sensitizing” people to enter into same-sex relationships.
The problematic section in the penal code is article 217 which states that:
Any person who practices, encourages or sensitizes people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice, shall be liable for a term of imprisonment ranging from five (5) to ten (10) years and fine ranging from Two Hundred thousand Rwanda Francs (200.000 RwF) to one million (1,000,000)Rwanda francs.”
The fines range from US$350 to US$1750. The average annual income is just US$370.
One key phrase of the proposed penal code, “encourages or sensitizes,” would have the effect of criminalizing advocacy on behalf of LGBT people. It would also severely impact the ability to deliver health services to LGBT people. Photos
The Horizon Community Association of Rwanda (HOCA) and the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) have denounced the bill (PDF: 56KB/3 pages), saying that Rwandan citizens still experience gross violations of human rights. “Our country and our people refuse to recognize the fact that we exist,” said Naomi Ruzindana, President of HOCA. “As far as they are concerned, there are no lesbians or gays in Rwanda. Well, we are here, we exist. We are ordinary people like everyone and all we want is for our people and our government to recognize our existence and the fact that it is our basic human right to live our lives the way that we want and choose.” Read complete article & more - by Jim Burroway – Box Turtle Bulletin