Closets open in eastern Africa

When the Anglican Communion met in June last year in Jerusalem at a global conference to discuss the future on the church in light of the impending threat of homosexuality, the world watched and waited with baited breath at the outcome of this meet.
Homosexual relationships are not widely accepted in Africa.
Homosexual relationships are not widely accepted in Africa.

When the Anglican Communion met in June last year in Jerusalem at a global conference to discuss the future on the church in light of the impending threat of homosexuality, the world watched and waited with baited breath at the outcome of this meet.

At the end of the conference a paper they called the ‘Jerusalem declaration’ was written and consisted of 14 articles.

Article 8 read, “We acknowledge God’s creation of human kind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one woman and one man as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family.”

As the storm over gay priests and the entire issue of homosexuality raged, who would have thought the issue would one day be discussed in a senate in Eastern Africa. Well it has. Burundi’s senate rejected a proposal to criminalise homosexual relations.

In mid February this year, the Senate of Burundi rejected a proposed amendment to the new draft of the criminal code that would have criminalised homosexual conduct for the first time.

Human rights groups had brought demands on the government, wrote to this African nation’s President and the Senate pointing out that the provision would violate the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Burundi is a signatory.

The new criminal code was drafted over a period of nearly two years, with the assistance of Burundian and international legal experts, after elections in 2005 restored the country’s democratic system and required the revision of legal texts.

However, in October 2008, at the end of the discussion on the bill, the Human Rights and Justice Commission in the National Assembly inserted a provision criminalising “anyone who engages in sexual relations with a person of the same sex.”

The provision would have been the first law criminalising gays and lesbians in the country’s history. The National Assembly approved the bill at the end of November 2008 with little debate.

In early February this year, the Senate Justice Commission completed a series of amendments to the National Assembly version, but it did not amend the provision on homosexuality.

The ‘same sex’ relations debate is one that is not likely to end soon. In this part of the world, like all other topics that evolve around sexual relations, many shy away from discussing it. A few, however, are not shy to voice their stand on the matter.

Pastor Emmanuel Ntayomba of Remera says this was an unbelievable decision by the senate.

“This is really bad and illegal, actually the bible puts it clearly in Romans chapter 1:26, ‘because of this God gave them to shameful lust, even women exchange their natural relationships for unnatural relationship and men also abandoned their natural relationship with women inflamed with lust with one another’.

He further wonders why people would involve themselves in such acts, ‘a man was made for a woman and not fellow man’ the states.

Jean Paul Tuyisenge from Nyamirambo believes this is a sign that the world is coming to an end.

“For sure lets us be sincere, why would a fellow man marry a fellow man?” Tuyisenge asks.

“I sometimes feel like this ‘religion’ is for whites not us because they are the same people who claim to have brought Christianity in Africa and at the same time they are now the ones promoting such things. I don’t blame the senate from Burundi but the troublemakers are the whites because this is common there” he said.

Immy Mbanda says, “I wish some of these people in the senate would have some religious feelings in them. Their rejection is like supporting and encouraging the act in the country something, which is against our African culture. I believe the Burundian culture is not different from our culture. Accepting homosexuality in Burundi is like accepting it in our country. I think that and suggest that the people in the senate should think twice and protect our culture and then African heritage,” Mbanda said.

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