EDITORIAL: Parliament can do better than being preoccupied with morality

Recently, a prominent Kigali lawyer took the government to court challenging some aspects of the Penal Code that criminalized several offences.

 Among them was adultery, absence from a home with no valid reason, shaming a public official including members of parliament, ridiculing or disrespect of religious organisations and their leaders, as well as defaming or making fun of the Head of State through cartoons.

The lawyer raised pertinent questions and one wondered how they managed to sail through Parliament without raising a red flag.

There are many issues the House can deal with, especially those related to the well-being of the population, but alas, our new parliament seems to be more interested in mundane things. Morality and personal behaviour seems to be on top of their agendas.

This week a local news media announced that Parliament – in some form of puritanical awakening - had summoned three ministers to discuss the issue of gigolos (male sex workers) as well as skin lightening cream seeking to criminalise them.

Instead of wasting time on things that are already catered for by the law, they could have tackled more pressing matters such as the just-released Integrated Household Living Condition Survey 5 and its contents. Acting as a morality police is not their job.

They even could have summoned the Minister of Local Government, for example, to find out how far efforts to streamline the social classification categories (Ubudehe) have progressed. It was recently announced that some people were wrongly classified and it affected their well-being.

The people elected members of parliament to continue vitalizing the country’s growth, not dabbling in puritanical trivialities; that is a job for religious organisations. Ours is a young parliament that should not dash our hopes by starting on the wrong footing.