Disturbing updates on the status of LGBTs in Burundi after the President Pierre Nkurunziza secretly signs legislation—previously rejected by the Senate—that attempts to legislate homosexuality out of existence in the small, impoverished East African nation. Gay men say their lives have been "marked with increased discrimination and fear" following Burundi's much-criticized draconian ban, reports the Voice of America.
The interviews conducted by the advocacy group Human
Rights Watch documents the difficulties of being a gay or lesbian in
Burundi, including instances of sexual violence, family rejection,
police intimidation, and now the daily possibility of imprisonment.
Yves, an HIV-positive gay man who lives in Bujumbura, says that finding work has been a serious challenge for him since the law was passed. He also worries that the new law will discourage those in the gay community from seeking HIV testing and treatment for fear of scrutinization.
Another self-identified gay man from Bujumbura, Théophile, says that he was beginning to see increased tolerance among his friends and family before the issue became politicized. He describes the law as a "step backward."
The draconian legislation makes same-sex attraction or relations punishable by up to two years in prison. In November, the lower chamber of Parliament voted in favor of the amendment. The Senate rejected the amendment in February.
Under its Belgian colonization, there were no laws against sodomy or homosexuality. Key international donors such as Belgium, the Netherlands and the European Union have been highly critical of the legislation.
The action by Nkurunziza's government to formally outlaw homosexual activity began after a small group of gays and lesbians—the Association for Respect and Rights for Homosexuals—began to speak out about gay rights advances made in nearby nations such as Kenya. Nkurunziza's party, the CNDD-FDD, led several massive government-organized, anti-gay demonstrations to demand the criminalization of homosexuality. One of the March protests attracted 20,000 protesters.
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Burundi: News Laws Criminalize Homosexuality [R20]
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