Tens of thousands of people in the small, impoverished East African nation of Burundi take to the streets in a government-organized, anti-gay demonstration to demand the criminalization of homosexuality. The Advocate reports:
The demonstration, which drew up to 20,000 people, follows the government's failure to implement a law that would have criminalized homosexual acts. On February 17, senators voted through a draft criminal code law that abolished the death penalty, but rejected an amendment that outlawed homosexuality.
At Friday's protest, Jeremie Ngendakumana, the ruling party's chairman, said, "[We are] protesting today to support the [view of the] majority of Burundians that homosexuality should be punished by law. Homosexuality is a sin. It is a culture which has been imported to sully our morals and is practiced by immoral people."
Parliament's lower chamber adopted amendments in November that sought to penalize homosexuality by up to two years in jail. The Senate bill returns to the lower chamber for conference.
Pancrace Cimpaye, a spokesperson for Burundi's main opposition party, tells AFP that President Pierre Nkurunziza's party strength is "weakening" and he is taking advantage of the popular opposition to homosexuality. "This demonstration fulfills the wishes of Nkurunziza who is a born again and who swore not to assent to the penal code if it does not penalize homosexuality," Cimpaya added.
The sole pro-gay group in the small nation, the Association for the Respect of Homosexuals' Rights (ARDHO), expresses concern over the escalating anti-gay culture. "Gays are worried and afraid because the ruling party is attempting to numb the population," vice chairman Christian Rumu says. "This is pure propaganda crafted for the 2010 elections."