Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The New Times - Rwandas First Daily :: Issue 14139 :: Lawmakers seek to scrap article on homosexuality

KIGALI - After months of speculation, the Political Affairs Committee in the Lower Chamber of Parliament has requested fellow law makers to consider scrapping the article on homosexuality from the penal code in conformity with the International Charter on Civil rights , The New Times can exclusively reveal. 
The President of the Political Affairs committee; Bernadette Kanzaire told  parliament yesterday that the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) council had requested the government to scrap the article pointing out that it was contrary to articles 16 and 26 of the United Nations Convenant on Civil and Political Rights that seek protection of all citizens with disregard to sex, religion and others.
“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.
In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” artcle 26 of the Convenant says.
Kanzaire’s six-man team is charged with reforming of Rwanda’s 33- year old penal code.
However, Kanzaire informed lawmakers that several opinions gathered during consultations indicated that homosexuality shouldn’t be tolerated in Rwanda since it was against the cultural norms of the nation.
She said it was important to support the authorities in educating the youth to adhere to the cultural values which discourage homosexuality.
Kanzaire said that the draft article within  law, which is still under debate, proposes to punish those who use their sexual orientation to spread the gay gospel to minors. She said the proposal does not in any way spell out any punish for those directly engaed in the act.
Minister for Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, who was present at the parliamentary discussions said that contrary to different opinions and suggestions, government had no intentions to criminalise gay people for what their sexual orientation. 
Karugarama emphasied Kanzaire’s point that the government did not have any intention to categorise any homosexual as a criminal unless he or she has sexually violated a minor.
“I think there was some kind of confusion on this particular article and yet the Law is clear. Anyone, whether homosexual or heterosexual, who involves a child in any sort of sexual activity will be held accountable by the courts of law. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or not,” Karugarama said
Karugarama said that the idea to criminalise homosexuality was a suggestion that came in a public request.
“There has been a lot of speculation. What people don’t realise is that the discussion about draft laws are open to the public. The criminalisation rumours stemmed from such open debates where everything is tabled and discussed openly,” he said
The members of the gay and lesbian community worldwide under their Umbrella Organisations; the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) had previously petitioned President Paul Kagame  to reconsider plans to include a provision that would penalize homosexuality as part of an overall revision to the Rwandan penal code
The Penal code reform talks are still ongoing and will end tomorrow. Upon revision, the Penal Code will clearly specify on the prosecution and subsequent punishment of culprits, rendering the work of prosecution easier and fairer.
Gay Rwandans face much of the same discrimination as gay Ugandans.

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