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.
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.”
The Rwandan Parliament will also consider another section of the Penal code that would criminalize sex workers in the country.
Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren designated Rwanda “a purpose-driven nation” in 2005. In in 2007 the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, supported a law criminalizing homosexuality. Last week, Warren condemmed Uganda’s proposal to further criminalize homosexuality, saying, “I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality. The freedom to make moral choices is endowed by God. Since God gives us that freedom, we must protect it for all, even when we disagree with their choices.” While he addressed his video encyclical to Ugandan pastors, he also said of Rwanda:
While we have just begun to train pastors in Uganda, we are very involved in Rwanda, creating a nationwide PEACE Plan at the invitation of the churches there. Over 1,000 Saddleback members have served on humanitarian projects in Rwanda.
If Warren is serious about opposing the criminalization of homoseuxality, he should engage his nationwide Rwandan PEACE Plan to put a stop to this bill. And send a personal copy of his video encyclical to his friend, President Kagame.