Rwanda: Law criminalizing homosexuality not included in text of penal code revisions

Following interventions from Rwandan civil society as well as the international community and governments, the Rwandan Government has indicated that Article 217 will not be a part of the final text of the penal code revisions. The provision, if included, would criminalize homosexuality for the first time in Rwanda, as well as any promotion and 'sensitisation' of the issue.

IGLHRC first received reports from Rwanda that the lower house of the Parliament would have its final debate of the revised penal code on December 17, 2009 and subsequently vote on its articles. Article 217 was expected to face a vote on December 18, according to local activists.

On Wednesday, December 17, the agenda of the lower house was abruptly changed for unclear reasons. IGLHRC later learned that Article 217 was not discussed on that day at all.

On Saturday, December 19, according to the Rwandan newspaper, New Times, the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama stated: "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."

Read the New Times article »

The Minister of Justice then reiterated this statement during the Monday, December 21st session of the lower house of Parliament. According to a source who attended the session, a number of MPs expressed dissatisfaction with this position.

IGLHRC will continue to work with Rwanda's Horizon Community Association (HOCA) and the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), to verify and monitor these positive developments and to ensure equal protection and privacy for all Rwandans, regardless of  sexual orientation or gender identity.