Following international attention, the Rwandan Government has announced that an anti-gay measure suggested by a committee reviewing the country’s criminal code will not become law.
Earlier this month, Rwanda’s New Times daily newspaper reported the country’s justice minister, Tharcisse Karygarama, as saying, “The Government I serve and speak for on certain issues cannot and will not in any way criminalise homosexuality; sexual orientation is a private matter and each individual has his or her own orientation — this is not a state matter at all.”
Article 217 was to read, “Any person who practises, encourages or sensitises people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice, shall be liable for a term of imprisonment ranging from five to 10 years and a fine ranging from two hundred thousand Rwanda francs to one million Rwanda francs.”
A million Rwandan francs, around $A2000, is about six times the average income in the east African nation.
The Political Affairs Committee of Rwanda’s Lower House recommended scrapping article 217 of the proposed new criminal code after meeting with representatives of the United Nations AIDS Fund who pointed out that Article 217 would be in breach of Articles 16 and 26 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Article 217 would have likely also breached Rwanda’s 2003 constitution, one of the most liberal in Africa and established in response to the country’s 1994 Hutu-led genocide of the Tutsi and moderate Hutus.
Rwanda previously had no laws targeting gay sex, although same-sex marriage has been banned since 2003.
Rwandan media have reported no opposition to the dropping of the law in the majority Catholic country.
Australia was one of several countries that championed Rwanda’s recent successful bid to join the Commonwealth, making it only the second nation with no historical ties to the British Empire to join the international grouping.

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