By Mongezi Mhlongo (BTM Senior Reporter)

RWANDA: As the Rwandan government sums up the process of reviewing that country’s draft penal code, the Civil Society Coalition on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people’s rights has expressed concerns about article 217 of the legislation which criminalises homosexual conduct.
This law which also seeks to bar any initiatives aiming to protect LGBTI rights has been strongly condemned by civil society groups in that country.

According to the Civil Society Coalition on LGBTI rights, a coalition formed to advocate for the removal of article 217 in the draft penal code, this section of the penal code is contradictory to the Rwandan Constitution and it is a violation of human rights.

The coalition also stated that article 217 is a “betrayal” of Rwanda’s recent history and the political drive of national unity, tolerance, inclusiveness and dialogue among the Rwandan citizens without discrimination.

Early this year, the parliament of Rwanda adopted Article 191 which states that any person who encourages or sensitises people of the same sex, to sexual relations or any sexual practices, shall be liable for a term of imprisonment ranging from five to ten years and a fine from 50 000 to 500 000 Francs.

Commenting about the Bill, Naome Ruzindana, Director of Horizon Community Association (HOCA) stated that LGBTI people are law abiding citizens who deserve peace and respect like any other Rwandan citizens.

“We feel very disappointed to be marginalized by our people, own country, state, society, community, civil society, stake holders, and our own families”, she said.

Meanwhile President Paul Kagame of Rwanda revealed plans to include a provision that would penalise homosexual conduct which appeared in Article 158 of the draft penal code of 2007 but was not passed into law.

Over the years Rwandan government has been mum about LGBTI issues, and the current bill comes as major blow for the LGBTI community in Rwanda.