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Posts for December, 2010

United Nations Restores Sexual Orientation To Resolution Condeming Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions

Jim Burroway

December 22nd, 2010

The United Nations General Assembly yesterday succeeded in restoring “sexual orientation” to a resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. The category of sexual orientation had been removed last month as a result of an Arab and African proposal. Yesterday’s 93-55 vote (with 27 abstentions) approved an American proposal to reinsert “sexual orientation” back into the resolution. The resolution was then passed with 122 yes votes, none against and 59 abstentions.

The UN passes a resolution every two years condemning extrajudicial killings. The 2008 version included a reference to sexual orientation. Zimbabwe’s U.N. Ambassador Chitsaka Chipaziwa harshly condemned its re-insertion into the 2010 resolution:

We will not have it foisted on us,” he said. “We cannot accept this, especially if it entails accepting such practices as bestiality, pedophilia and those other practices many societies would find abhorrent in their value systems.

“In our view, what adult people do in their private capacity by mutual consent does not need agreement or rejection by governments, save where such practices are legally proscribed,” Chitsaka said.

Paul Canning, who has an extensiverundown of the vote, reports that one-third of African countries either supported the American proposal to reintroduce “sexual orientation” into the resolution or abstained from voting, representing a change from their votes last month removing the clause. He also notes that almost all of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, also changed their votes as well. Canning noted the Rwandan ambassador’s “yes” vote:

In the debate at the UN the most moving contribution was from the Rwandan delegate who said that a group does not need to be “legally defined” to be targeted for massacres and referenced his countries experience. “We can’t continue to hide our heads in the sand” he said.”These people have a right to life.”

American Anti-Gay Legal Org Opens Branch in Kenya

Jim Burroway

January 29th, 2010

Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice has announced that they have opened an East African branch in Nairobi, Kenya. According to their announcement:

The bigger vision is for the EACLJ (East Africa Center for Law and Justice) to also help the countries in the East African region with information and research that will enable their development.  With the strengthening and expansion of the East African Community, by the inclusion of Burundi and Rwanda in the Community, the opportunities for development are endless.

This is only the beginning.  The EACLJ will be a centre that will change the landscape of legislation for all Kenyans and eventually all of East Africa’s citizens.

Unmentioned is Uganda, which just happens to sit between Kenya and Rwanda, with Burundi further south. The ACLJ has filed friend of the court briefs in the U.S. against just about every LGBT-related case brought to the courts. Specifically, they vigorously opposed (PDF: 212KB/28 pages) overturning American anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas. In 1995, they also opposed overturning Colorado’s Amendment 2, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down for illegally barring LGBT people from full participation in the legislative process. Since ACLJ now wants to meddle in the legal affairs of East Africa, now would be a good time for them to go on record with their position on Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Rwandan predicts quiet decriminalization

Timothy Kincaid

December 29th, 2009

Joseph Rwagatare writes in AllAfrica.com

The New Times reported on Wednesday December 23 that the parliamentary committee on poitical affairs had recommeneded the removal of homosexuality from the penal code.

One would have expected an avalanche of protests from anti-gay groups. None has come. The proposal will probably go without much public notice and debate. The penal code will be amended and homosexuality will be decriminalised.

He predicts that as most people don’t much care one way or the other, this change in the penal code will quietly be but in place. He further predicts that it will have virtually no impact on society.

Rwanda To Scrap Proposed Anti-Gay Law

Jim Burroway

December 23rd, 2009

Rwanda’s English language daily New Times reports:

After months of speculation, the Political Affairs Committee in the Lower Chamber of Parliament has requested fellow law makers to consider scrapping the article on homosexuality from the penal code in conformity with the International Charter on Civil rights, The New Times can exclusively reveal.

The President of the Political Affairs committee; Bernadette Kanzaire told  parliament yesterday that the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) council had requested the government to scrap the article pointing out that it was contrary to articles 16 and 26 of the United Nations Convenant on Civil and Political Rights that seek protection of all citizens with disregard to sex, religion and others.

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.

Rwanda’s legislature is in the process of revising its 33-year-old penal code.

Rwandan Justice Minister Denies Plans To Criminalize Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

December 19th, 2009
Rwanda's Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama

Rwanda's Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama

A report from Kigali-based New Times and distributed by allAfrica.com quotes Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama as refuting reports that the government intends to criminalize homosexuality:

“The government I serve and speak for on certain issues cannot and will not in any way criminalize homosexuality; sexual orientation is a private matter and each individual has his or her own orientation – – this is not a State matter at all,” said Karugarama.

Karugarama cites reports from international gay rights organizations who had said that a proposed law was to be debated in Rwanda’s lower Chamber of Deputies on Dec 16. Later reports held that the vote would take place by Dec. 18.  The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission now says that a vote was abruptly postponed for the week of Dec. 21. Karugarama denies that there are any plans for a vote:

“They allege that the law was to be passed in Parliament on December 16, but sincerely there was nothing like that in the parliament that day.”

He clearly stated that; “these people should distinguish between issues debated by private parties and concrete proposals from the government.”

He hastened to add that the government has held a meeting with its development partners on this particular issue and told them their position ‘which is that the government has no intentions whatsoever to criminalize homosexuality.

Newsweek: Is Uganda’s Anti-Gay Ferver Spreading?

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2009

[Update: This post has been updated to include a brief statement MP David Bahati made to NPR.]

Katie Paul pulls the microscope off of Uganda and looks at the climate for LGBT citizens throughout Africa. It doesn’t look good. Much of the continent is rife with homophobia. Last year, Burundi criminalized homosexuality for the first time, with penalties of up to two years in prison. In Senegal, we’ve seen people arrested for homosexuality (many of them LGBT advocates). The president of Gambia threatened to cut off the heads of all gay people in his country. And Nigeria has its own draconian bill languishing in its legislature that ostensibly outlaws same sex marriage, but goes much further by banning any gay people from living together and all advocacy on behalf of LGBT people. Meanwhile, Rwanda, which lies on Uganda’s southwest border, is currently debating a bill to criminalize homosexuality with five to ten year’s imprisonment, along with all advocacy and counseling of LGBT people. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission says that a vote may occur in Rwanda’s lower House sometime this week.

But despite all that, some have suggested that if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law, Uganda will represent the first domino to fall. One of those suggesting this is none other than Ugandan MP David Bahati, the prime sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He told NPR:

“Once this bill passes, you’re going to see country by country learning from this, continent by continent. It’s a crucial time and a crucial bill, not only in Uganda but in the world.”

But as Paul points out, pointing to Uganda as the first domino as some have done is, as she puts it, “a tough sell”:

While the historical origins of anti-gay legislation are debatable, antipathy to homosexuality is by now a home-grown phenomenon throughout most of Africa. ABC’s Dana Hughes, writing from Nairobi, points out that such opinions on homosexuality are already widespread on the continet. “While American evangelicals are being examined for their role in the origins of the bill in Uganda,” she writes, “East Africa, and for that matter Africa as a whole, is decidedly, virulently against homosexuality.” In total, 37 countries in Africa have laws on the books criminalizing same-sex relations.

We’ve been on this story every since we first noticed that three American anti-gay activists were about to put on an anti-gay conference in Kampala. We did not believe and we have never suggested, as some have charged in probably the flimsiest strawman ever erected, that conditions weren’t already ripe for an anti-gay pogrom even without the meddling of three Americans who presented themselves as “experts” on homosexuality. We knew very well the conditions that already existed in that country, and that was the subject of the very second post we put up in the series.

We took notice and followed this story through the present day, and we’ll continue to follow it because Uganda has a very violent history. That violence in recent years has been directed toward that country’s reviled LGBT community. And now Ugandan leaders aim to take its violent legacy and codify it into law, turning LGBT people into candidates for the noose and a nation into an army of informers.

No, that conference didn’t start this fire, not by a longshot. The fire was already burning, but the conference was the napalm that burst the fire into the conflagration that we see today. And Uganda is hardly ground zero in Africa’s war against LGBT people. It’s just where the spotlight happens to shine at the moment. And with Ugandans’ extremely close geographical, cultural, and religious ties to Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya, these events bear very close scrutiny.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Rwanda To Vote on Criminalizing Homosexuality Wednesday

Jim Burroway

December 15th, 2009

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.

Rick Warren and Rwandan President Paul Kagame

Rick Warren and Rwandan President Paul Kagame

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.