In Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), GRET strengthens associations supporting people discriminated because of their sexual orientation in the Great Lakes Countries (PAFPD-GL). This is an interview with Annonciata Mukayitete, the GRET Project Manager, on the issues prevailing in the sub-region.
In Touch. What is the situation of sexual minorities in the Great Lakes African Countries?
Annonciata Mukayitete. National legal frameworks are discriminatory. In Burundi for example the Criminal Code punishes homosexual acts with three months to two years imprisonment and a fine ranging from 50 000 to 100 000 Burundian francs. Considering the law, one can claim to be gay without being automatically detained because it is the homosexual practice itself which is criminalized. Pressures (at the entrance of nightclubs for example) or verbal assaults on the basis of external appearances are commonplace. In Rwanda, in 2009, the lower house of parliament was on the brink of voting on a revision of the penal code criminalizing relationships between persons of the same sex: “Any person who practices, encourages or sensitizes a person of the same sex to indulge in sexual relations or any sexual practice is punishable by five to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine ranging from 200,000 to one million Rwandan francs.’’ Then a national outreach campaign has been conducted by civil society organizations and the law has been withdrawn: it is not only contrary to the constitution, human rights, the fight against HIV/AIDS but it also affects LGBTI people (lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex) at a socio-economic level (family rejection, threats at school and in the workplace, etc..). Yet, good practices towards sexual minorities have been identified on the issues relating to the fight against AIDS, although improvements are still needed, especially regarding the training of medical staffs.
IT. Can the fight against inequalities experienced by these populations contribute to the development in these countries?
AM. LGBTI people have inalienable rights that must be respected without any discrimination, including the right to life, expression, education, etc. These are fundamental liberties recognized by the United Nations gathering also the Great Lakes countries . Fighting against inequalities and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender enables marginalized people to integrate society, to work, to study, to have access to services, and thus contribute to the socio-economic development of their countries.
IT. What are the objectives of GRET’s PAFPD-GL project?
AM. Within the framework of the PAFPD-GL project, GRET builds the capacities of organizations to work for people discriminated in the Great Lakes region (Rwanda, Burundi and DRCongo/ region of Goma). In order to defend human rights, these associations must be strong enough to face huge challenges. That is why GRET supports them in several areas: organizational and institutional development, lobbying and advocacy, prevention of STDs, including HIV/AIDS, networking, supporting management and internal and external evaluation.