The new legislation criminalizes homosexuality for the first time in the history of the nation. Same-sex acts are punishable by "between three months and two years in prison, along with a substantial fine."
"Unfortunately, this penal law is also a regression because it now makes homosexuality a criminal offense, whereas it had been tolerated until now," says MP Catherine Mabobori, who abstained during the vote.
The sole pro-gay group in the small nation, the Association for the Respect of Homosexuals' Rights (ARDHO), says it is "outraged" and appeals to international community. "We don't understand how educated people can adopt such a law because homosexuality is neither a disease nor a deviance," an official told AFP. The activist "was speaking on condition he not be named" and adds, "How are we going to be able to continue the struggle against AIDS in our community if every homosexual has to go underground?"
Burundi's surprise move comes in the wake of "considerable hostility to homosexuality" in the East African region, reports the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "Two-thirds of African nations maintain criminal penalties for consensual same-sex behavior. In recent years several countries, including Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda, have threatened to strengthen laws against homosexuality." In particular, the government of nearby Uganda has undertaken a major anti-gay offensive. Authorities threaten to prosecute anyone who comes out.
Thanks CARY and IGLHRC
Some Background ...
Ugandan Cleric: Exile Gays, Leave Them to Die [R20]
Uganda Ethics Minister Advises Gays to Leave [R20]
Report: "Abstinence Only" Policy Spreads HIV, Death [R20]
Bush Admin Funding Anti-Gay Groups in Uganda [R20]
Ugandan Minister Receives Award for Anti-Gay [R20]
Uganda Launches Major Anti-Gay Offensive [R20]