LGBT rights in Rwanda

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LGBT rights in Rwanda
Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status Legal
Gender identity/expression No
Military service No
Discrimination protections No
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people living in Rwanda face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. While neither homosexuality nor homosexual acts are illegal, homosexuality is considered a taboo topic, and there is no significant public discussion of this issue in any region of the country.[1] No special legislative protections are afforded to LGBT citizens,[1] and same-sex marriages are not recognized by the state, as the Constitution of Rwanda provides that "[o]nly civil monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is recognized".[2] LGBT Rwandans have reported being harassed, blackmailed, and even arrested by the police under various laws dealing with public order and morality.[3]

Despite this, Rwanda is considered a leader in the progress on human rights for LGBT persons in East Africa.[4] Rwanda is a signatory of the United Nations joint statement condemning violence against LGBT people, being one of the only few countries in Africa to have sponsored the declaration.[5]


Kingdom of Rwanda[edit]

In the old Kingdom of Rwanda, male homosexuality was common among young Hutus and Tutsis. Societal acceptance quickly disappeared after the arrival of the Europeans.[6]

Republic of Rwanda[edit]

On 16 December 2009, the national Parliament debated whether to make homosexuality a criminal offense, with a punishment of 5–10 years imprisonment.[7] This legislation was similar to the controversial anti-homosexuality bill in the neighboring country of Uganda.[8] Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama, however, condemned and refuted reports that the Government intended to criminalize homosexual acts, saying that sexual orientation is a private matter, not a state business.[9]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Rwanda does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or similar unions. Most gay people who have been interviewed stated that they are not open about their sexuality to their family for fear of being rejected.[10]

The Constitution of Rwanda, adopted in May 2003, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.[2]

Government and politics[edit]

LGBT flag map of Rwanda

Political parties[edit]

Under Rwandan electoral laws, most of the political parties are aligned with, if not an extension of, the ruling party. The two Rwandan political parties that are not a part of the ruling coalition, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, have not taken an official position on LGBT rights. The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda has been attempting to become registered with the Government, although it has not taken any formal position on LGBT rights.

In September 2016, speaking in San Francisco, President Paul Kagame said that "it (homosexuality) hasn't been our problem. And we don't intend to make it our problem".[4]

Human rights[edit]

Since 2005, the Horizons Community Association of Rwanda has been doing some public advocacy on behalf of LGBT rights, although its members have often been harassed by the Government.[11]

Society and culture[edit]

The U.S. Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 stated that:

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and cabinet-level government officials expressed support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. LGBTI persons reported societal discrimination and abuse, and LGBTI rights groups reported occasional harassment by neighbors and police. There were no known reports of physical attacks against LGBTI persons, nor were there any reports of LGBTI persons fleeing the country due to harassment or attack.[12]

Religious beliefs[edit]

In 2007, the Anglican Church in Rwanda condemned "the non biblical behaviors" of the European and American churches and insisted that they would not support the ordination of gay clergy.[13] They vowed to refuse donations from churches that support LGBT rights.[14]

Likewise, the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda called homosexuality, "moral genocide" and against Rwandan culture because sexuality may only be expressed within the bounds of a marriage between a man and a woman.[15]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in hate speech and violence No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Same-sex marriage No (Constitutional ban since 2003)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]