Inspired by its northern neighbor Uganda, the lower house of the Rwandan Parliament begins debate on revising its penal code that will, for the first time, criminalize homosexuality.
A vote on this draft code will occur before the end of the week. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has learned that the proposed Article 217 of the draft Penal Code Act will criminalize "[a]ny person who practices, encourages or sensitizes people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice." If the Chamber of Deputies approves, the draft code will go before the Rwandan Senate most likely in early 2010.
The draconian legislation would impose prison sentences of between five and ten years for those convicted of "practicing homosexual acts." Health and HIV/AIDS advocates fear that "encouraging and sensitising" could be interpreted to ban on counseling and impact on health services for gay men.
State sponsored anti-gay hysteria has been sweeping across east Africa. In recent weeks Uganda, whose government has been particularly harsh toward its LGBT citizens, has been debating the Anti Homosexuality Bill which would impose a possible death sentence for those convicted of "aggravated homosexuality." Earlier this year, nearby Burundi enacted harsh new anti-gay legislation that criminalized homosexuality and made same-sex relations punishable by up to two years in prison.