BREAKING: Rwandan Parliament to Vote This Week on Criminalization of Homosexuality


Updated 8:22 pm, December 15th, 2009 to reflect the change  in an update from IGLHRC from "vote on the bill tomorrow," to "debate the bill tomorrow and vote on it this week."

Rwanda.  Yes, Rwanda.

When I first saw the email heading, I thought it might be wrong.  The human rights community has for some weeks now been focusing on a bill in Uganda–on which a vote is expected any day–to criminalize homosexuality.  The Uganda bill, on which the White House only just released a statement of opposition, was introduced on October 14, 2009.  The so-called "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" would:

  • Imprison for life anyone convicted of "the offense of homosexuality";
  • Punish
    "aggravated homosexuality" – including repeat offenders, or anyone who
    is HIV positive and has gay sex – with the death penalty;
  • Forbid the "promotion of homosexuality," and jail rights defenders who work on LGBT rights;
  • Imprison
    anyone for up to three years if they fail to report within 24 hours
    anyone they know who is lesbian, gay,or transgender, or who supports the human rights of LGBT persons.

But the email from our colleagues at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said Rwanda, and I clicked on the link.  And I found that yes, they meant Rwanda, and that yes, indeed yet another country in sub-Saharan Africa–one which has made such vast progress from the genocide of a decade ago–was going to vote on a bill to criminalize the existence of a whole class of people.  Rwanda’s Chamber of Deputies will debate the draft code tomorrow (or today as you read this), December 16, 2009, and is expected to vote on the bill later this week.

IGLHRC wrote that:

The lower house of the Rwandan Parliament will vote on a
draft revision of the penal code that will, for the first time in
Rwanda, make homosexuality a crime.

The proposed Article
217 of the draft Penal Code Act will criminalize "[a]ny person who
practices, encourages or sensitizes people of the same sex, to sexual
relation or any sexual practice."

If the Chamber of Deputies
approves, the draft code will likely go before the Rwandan Senate in
early 2010.

Article 217 violates Rwandans’ basic human rights and
is contradictory to the Rwandan Constitution as well as various
regional and international conventions, notes IGLHRC. 

A coalition of organizations, including IGLHRC, the Coalition of
African Lesbians (CAL), and Rwanda’s Horizon Community Association
(HOCA) are "urging the international community
to act against this proposed law and support the equality, dignity, and
privacy of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in
Rwanda."

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, who professes a belief that homosexuality is "against God’s will," only just last week came out against the proposed bill in Uganda.  Yet Saddleback Church is deeply involved in Rwanda, and I can’t as yet find any statement regarding his opposition to the bill in Rwanda.

The fact that such bills appear to be spreading throughout sub-Saharan Africa is not much of a surprise.  Discrimination and bias against gay, lesbian, and transgender persons are virulent throughout the region and even many well-educated professionals are highly prejudiced against gays.  And many of the most vocal ultra-fundamentalist conservatives have been receiving huge amounts of US government assistance under PEPFAR and other programs for several years, enabling them to grow in influence and reach.  

Check with IGLHRC or here for actions.

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  • liberaldem

    This is, sadly, another example of the pernicious influence of Rick Warren in Africa. I’ver read elsewhere that Rwanda is considered a “purpose-driven” country.

    Rick Warren and his church need to be held accountable for their role in spreading prejudice and hatred around the world.

  • crowepps

    Rwanda was ripe for a religious takeover from outside after the incredible black eye given the local churches by publicity about individual religious leaders participating in and encouraging the genocide.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6136192.stm

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/13/AR2006121301948.html

    It’s just too bad that the one who seized the opportunity was Warren. Although I suppose it could be seen as some sort of minimal advance to redirect the intolerance and tension between Tutsi and Hutu (casualties to date, appx. 1 million) to straights versus gays instead.

    It sure would be nice if there were someone out there actually preaching tolerance, promoting all that liberal pinko-commie wimpy stuff contained in actual Sermon on the Mount Christianity but I guess there isn’t any money in it.

  • harry834

    From my facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=127238639977&id=694621387&ref=mf#/group.php?gid=198541255168&ref=mf

    FIGHT THE UGANDA ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL!

    Call the U.S. White House and State Department WEDNESDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2009

    You can reach the White House Comments by calling:
    202 – 456 – 1111

    You can reach the State Department by calling:
    202 – 647 – 6575

    WHITE HOUSE CALL IN SCRIPT-PLEASE CALL!
    1. Call the White House Comments Line at 202-456-1111.
    2. The receptionist will answer. Introduce yourself and let them know you are a U.S. resident or citizen from from (city, state) __________.
    3. “I am calling today to thank President Obama for his recent public condemnation of Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I urge the President to follow up with action. Specifically, I am calling on the President to support economic sanctions on trade and the withdraw of foreign aid to Uganda if this bill passes.”
    4. You can stop there or add an additional sentence or two about why this issue is important to you (ex: human rights, the fight against HIV/AIDS, etc.)
    5. Thank the receptionist, hang up and call the State Department.

    STATE DEPARTMENT CALL IN SCRIPT -PLEASE CALL!
    1. Call the State Department switchboard at 202-647-6575.
    2. The receptionist will answer. Introduce yourself and let them know you are a U.S. resident of citizen from (city, state) __________.
    3. “I am calling today to thank the State Department for its recent public condemnation of Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I urge the Secretary of State to follow up now with action. Specifically, I am calling for support of economic sanctions on trade and the withdraw of foreign aid to Uganda if this bill passes.”
    4. You can stop there or add an additional sentence or two about why this issue is important to you (ex: human rights, the fight against HIV/AIDS, etc.)
    5. Thank the receptionist and hang up.

  • harry834