From the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

**A 48-hour marathon by the Parliament of Rwanda to criminalize homosexuality is under way**

URGENT CALL TO ACTION

CALL FOR THE IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF ARTICLE 217 OF THE DRAFT REVISION OF THE RWANDA PENAL CODE ACT WHICH CRIMINALIZES HOMOSEXUALITY

Horizon Community Association (HOCA), an LGBTI organization in Rwanda, in collaboration with the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) calls on all human rights defenders, organizations, governments, civil society, globally, to immediately take action against a proposed article in the draft Penal Code Act in Rwanda which would criminalize homosexuality.


Background
In November 2009, a draft revision on the Penal Code Act of Rwanda was tabled in the Parliament of Rwanda. Article 217 of the draft act would introduce new, oppressive legislation—the criminalization of consensual same-sex acts and relationships as well as criminalizing the work of LGBT human rights defenders. Homosexuality has never been a crime in Rwanda.

The lower house of the Rwandan Parliament will hold its final debate on this draft code Wednesday December 16, 2009. A vote on this draft code will occur before the end of this week.

Article 217 reads:

Any person who practices, encourages or sensitizes people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice, shall be liable for a term of imprisonment ranging from five (5) to ten (10) years and fine ranging from Two Hundred thousand Rwanda Francs (200.000 RwF) to one million (1,000,000)Rwanda francs.

This article is a violation of basic human rights and is contradictory to the Rwandan Constitution as well as various regional and international human rights treaties and conventions. This proposed law stands in direct conflict with the rights to human dignity, personal freedom (Article 12), Equality (Article 16), Expression (Article 18), and Privacy (Article 22) ensured by the Rwandan Constitution, and in particular, Article 22(1), which states that “the private lives of individuals shall not be infringed upon in any way.” Likewise, this proposed article is counter to the guarantees of nondiscrimination and equality before the law in Articles 2, 3, and 28 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Furthermore, laws criminalizing and detentions of people because of consensual sex between persons of the same sex are arbitrary and violate Articles 2 and 26 on the rights to equality before the law, freedom from discrimination, and privacy of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Rwanda is a party (Toonen v. Australia, 1994).

If the new Penal Code includes this provision, it will also hinder the implementation of the Rwanda National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS by the National Commission of Fight against AIDS (CNLS), which is currently considering the inclusion of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) in the plan. A law of this nature would be a major setback to the Rwandan Government’s commitment to national unity, tolerance, inclusiveness, dialogue, social cohesion and security among Rwandan citizens and residents.

HOCA, CAL and IGLHRC are calling on you to;

Send letters to the following officials demanding immediate withdrawal of 217 from the draft revision of the Penal Code Act;

1. H.E Paul Kagame
President of the Republic of Rwanda
Phone: +250 818 2105/590 62105/818 2000/59062000
Fax: +250 572 431

2. Rt. Hon. Bernard Makuza
Prime Minister of Rwanda
Phone: +250 585 444/5, +250 584 648
Fax: +250 583 714
Email: primature@gov.rw

3. Tharcisse Karugarama
Minister of Justice
Phone: +250 586398/586561/585844
Fax: +250 586509
Email: mjust@minjust.gov.rw

4. Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo
Minister of Health
Phone: +250 77458/77910
Fax: +250 76853/77458
Email: gsante@rwandatel.com

5. Joseph Habineza
Minister of Sports and Culture
Phone: +250 5835315
Fax: 583518
Email: minispoc@gov.rw

6. Minister of Gender and Family Promotion
Phone: +250 577626/577203/576455
Fax: +250 577543
Email: migeprofe@gov.rw

7. Solina Nyirahabimana
Minister in the Office of the President
Email: gfrank@presidency.gov.rw

(Here are the emails all together, if you want to copy and paste: primature@gov.rw, mjust@minjust.gov.rw, gsante@rwandatel.com, minispoc@gov.rw, migeprofe@gov.rw, gfrank@presidency.gov.rw)

Call on the Government of Rwanda to recognize, protect, respect and promote the human rights of all citizens and residents of Rwanda, including LGBTI people;

Protest against Article 217 for LGBT at the Rwandan Embassies in your country;

Lobby your Government (especially the Presidency and Foreign Ministries) to put pressure on the Government of Rwanda through diplomatic and other means possible; and to

Engage the press in your call for the promotion of human rights for all people in Rwanda.

Tags: Africa, GLBTQI, Rwanda, discrimination, gay, homosexuality, human rights, lesbian, persecution

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