Rwanda paves the way for universal respect of human rights in Africa

In December 2009, the lower House of the Rwandan Parliament was set to vote upon a revised Penal Code, Article 217 of which would have made homosexuality a criminal offence for the first time in the East African nation.

Following a strong mobilisation from diplomats and human rights activists in the region, Tharcisse Karugarama, Minister of Justice, declared that the Rwandan government “cannot and will not in any way criminalize homosexuality”, reaffirming that sexual orientation was “a private matter and each individual has his or her own orientation – this is not a State matter at all”.

Rwanda flagMichael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, enthusiastically congratulated Rwandan authorities on their decision: “In a context increasingly repressive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in African countries, Rwanda did the right thing by refusing to criminalise homosexuality. This is yet another example of Rwanda being a role-model for African nations.”

Mr Cashman further added: “With this courageous decision, Rwanda is paving the way for everyone’s human rights to be respected in the region. The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights calls on other African nations to follow the lead of Rwanda, and abide by Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”

Homosexuality is currently a criminal offence in several African countries, and punished by death in Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan, and potentially Uganda.