The East African nation of Rwanda, which is Uganda's southern neighbor, denies reports that its parliament will revise its penal code to criminalize homosexuality. Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama claims the government believes sexual orientation is a "private matter" and has no plans to criminalize homosexuality, reports AllAfrica.com.
"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. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), and Rwanda's Horizon Community Association (HOCA), recently issued statements demanding that that the Rwandan Parliament withdraws article 217 of the penal code regarding homosexuality. The Minister accused the 'groups for either acting in total ignorance or intentionally presenting wrong facts for their own political motives.' "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....These people should distinguish between issues debated by private parties and concrete proposals from the government."
The IGLHRC and other human rights groups maintain the lower house of the Rwandan parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, want to amend the draft Penal Code Act and criminalize "[a]ny person who practices, encourages or sensitizes people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice." The draconian legislation would impose prison sentences of between five and ten years for those convicted of "practicing homosexual acts."