Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rwanda, like Uganda, proposes to incarcerate same sex lovers, and friends who won't fink on them

Rwandan lesbians, Murenzi (left) and Mado (right), came out publicly last month slamming the anti-gay legislation being considered in Rwanda's Parliament.

(That, however, is my rewrite of the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) caption, which reads: "Our rights: Murenzi (left) was born in South Africa, and Mado, 27, is divorced. The two women came out publicly last month slamming the anti-gay legislation due in Parliament.")

The RNA caption seemed to have been written, a bit oddly, to discredit Murenzi as a foreigner, and Mado as a divorced woman.

Uganda has softened its anti-gay legislation, removing the death penalty, due to international outcry, and even Reverend Rick Warren, also under pressure, has come out against it, but not until after it was no longer an issue,

But, none of the international press seem to have noted that similarly harsh anti-gay legislation is now proposed in Uganda's neighbor, Rwanda, which, was Reverend Rick Warren's first purpose-driven nation, before Uganda became his second.

Last summer a study of men who have sex with men, in Rwanda, found, surprise surprise, that they have higher rates of HIV infection; the LGBTI community welcomed that news because at least it acknowledged that they exist in Rwanda. But, Dr. Richard Sezibera, quoted below, said that this study "showed that gays are 'very few.'"

And, the report below says that the Rwandan Health Ministry is stating that "because Rwandan society is not open to homosexuality, gays were going underground – which could complicate the fight against the HIV/AIDS spread." This, however, like the claim that same sex lovers do not exist, in Rwanda, is nothing new.

In a 2005 Global Gayz interview,, Alan Malege said: "With HIV/AIDS in Rwanda, it's terrible. . . it's difficult to say a word on AIDS to these boys because the baseline for the information is not open."

When Global Gays asked Alan Malege, also in 2005, about lesbians in Rwanda, he responded: "Lesbians in Rwanda I may say are 150% underground. You will never know these girls, but the small information I have is that most of them deal with European women."

Last month, four years later, Rwandan lesbians Murenzi and Mado, came out openly, "slamming the anti-gay legislation being considered."

Here's a report from the state run Rwanda News Agency,, forwarded by Interim Rwanda Green Party Chairman Frank Habineza. Keep in mind that the RNA is state run, though its writers often manifest conflicting impulses. Stories that appear on the RNA for short periods of time often vanish under what Frank Habineza describes as "big pressure":

Debate on homosexuality not very crucial – government
By RNA Reporter
Friday, 11 December 2009

Kigali: Discussion on homosexuality was hastily thrown out of the just concluded 7th National Dialogue following opposition from several senior officials including the Minister of Health – and the issue did not appear in the final communiqué, RNA reports.

In his intervention on the short debate that arose on homosexuality, Dr. Richard Sezibera said a study that was done on prevalence of homosexuality in relation to HVI/AIDS, showed that gays are “very few”.

“Your Excellency, I think this meeting should not dwell so much on this issue because it is not widespread,” he said. “They are just very few people.”

The debate arose after somebody sent an SMS to the National Dialogue - asking the summit to say something on homosexuality. There is also a bill in parliament which could outlaw homosexuality with lengthy prison sentences. The legislation has not come to debate yet.

Though President Paul Kagame was present, he did not say anything on the issue as the practice had been with the other issues all through the marathon two-day session. He could be seen consulting with the Speaker of the Lower Chamber Rose Mukantabana. Homosexuality was not mentioned anywhere among the 20-plus resolutions read at the end of the summit.

A lawmaker who has attended numerous forums on rights of homosexuals caused laughter when he accused gays of abandoning Rwandan culture.

“I informed them [in those previous meetings] that such a phenomenon should wait and probably be raised after ten or fifteen years,” he said amid loud laughter.

The intervention by the Health Minister prompted the Local Government ministry Permanent Secretary Mr. Eugene Barikana, who is also presiding over the ongoing summit, to describe homosexuals as “few people who have been misled”.

A study released recently by the Health Ministry suggested that because Rwandan society is not open to homosexuality, gays were going underground – which could complicate the fight against the HIV/AIDS spread.

However, Health Minister Sezibera said the “single study” may not be sufficient basis to make conclusions.

For the first time, two women identifying themselves as lesbians found themselves in a media spotlight last month after they came out appearing at a civil society forum discussing the gay situation. Despite pleading with state TV not to be shown, their images were televised. Their interviews demanding for their rights were also aired on several local radio stations.

Rwanda is also under fire from campaign groups – with Amnesty International branding the country as “hostile” to gays in a report released in May.

In March, two female LGBT activists were apparently accused of forging documents and detained for two weeks after attending a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) conference in Mozambique. They were subsequently released two weeks later after prosecution withdrew the case citing lack of evidence.

It was the first time that this information had surfaced as Rwandan society has not seen common occurrence of homosexuality. The names of the allegedly detained lesbians are not public yet.

Underground gay groups such as ‘Little Sisters of Rwanda’ describe the country as “rudely homophobic."

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