LGBT rights in Rwanda

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LGBT rights in Rwanda
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Gender identity/expression Unknown
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption Unknown if gays and lesbians are allowed to adopt
Military service Unknown if gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections None

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Rwandan citizens may face greater legal and social difficulties in comparison to citizens who are heterosexual. While homosexuality is not de jure illegal, it highly unpopular with the ruling government and the socially conservative mores of the population [1]. No laws exist to protect LGBT citizens from discrimination or harassment [1][2]. The Constitution of Rwanda prohibits same-sex marriage.[3]

Constitutional rights

The Rwanda Constitutional, adopted in 1991, has several provisions that may impact that legal rights of LGBT Rwandan citizens;

  • Article 16 - All citizens shall be equal in the eyes of the law, without any discrimination, especially in respect to race, color, origin, ethnic background, clan, sex, opinion, religion, or social status.
  • Article 22 - (1) The private lives of individuals shall not be infringed upon in any way.
  • Article 24 - The family, which is the natural basis of the Rwandan people, shall be protected by the State.

Criminal code

As of 2010, non-commercial, private, adult and consensual homosexual relations are not illegal per se and the age of consent is 18. However, LGBT Rwandans have reported being harassed, blackmailed and even arrested by the police under various laws dealing with public order and morality. [1].

On December 16, 2009, there was a debate in the national parliament about making homosexuality a criminal offense, proposing 5–10 years of imprisonment.[4] This legislation is similar to the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the neighboring country of Uganda, which would penalize homosexuals with imprisonment and (in cases of relations with a minor or a disabled person, in cases where the offender is HIV-positive and in cases of repeated homosexual acts)[5] the death penalty. Uganda's bill would also penalize people with knowledge of individuals who are homosexual but do not report them. Following reports of the proposed anti-homosexuality bill, the Rwandan justice minister stated that "the government has no intentions whatsoever to criminalize homosexuality".[6]

Government and politics

As of 2010, no legislation exists to address discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Rwandan electoral laws are such that most of the political parties are aligned with, if not an extension of, the ruling party [2].

Political parties

The two Rwandan political parties that are not a part of the ruling coalition, Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, have not taken any official position on LGBT rights. There is a Green Party attempting to become registered with the government, although it has not taken any formal position on LGBT rights.

Human rights

Since 2005, the Horizons Community Association of Rwanda has been doing some public advocacy on behalf of LGBT rights, [3] although its members have often been harassed by the government. [4]

Society & Culture

LGBT people often report being blackmailed, harassed, physically assaulted and even jailed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity [5]. Beyond the official or unofficial government, the prevailing religious and cultural beliefs tend to look down upon homosexuality and cross-dressing as signs of immorality, sickness or something foreign imported into the nation.

Religious beliefs

Most Rwandan citizens are affiliated with the Catholic Church, which views homosexuality and cross-dressing as signs of immorality. The other major religions, Protestantism and Islam also tend to take a similar viewpoint.

For example, 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 and have vowed to refuse donations from churches that support LGBT rights [6].

Likewise, The Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda called homosexuality, "moral genocide" and against Rwandan culture because, in his view, sexuality may only be expressed within the bounds of a marriage between a man and a woman [7].

Family and marriage

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 [8].


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Spartacus International Gay Guide, page 1216. Bruno Gmunder Verlag, 2007.
  2. Legislation of INTERPOL member states on sexual offences against children (HTML). INTERPOL.
  3. Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, 2003. Article 26: "Only civil monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is recognized. No person may be married without his or her free consent. Parties to a marriage have equal rights and duties upon and during the subsistence of a marriage and at the time of divorce. The law determines conditions, forms and effect of marriage." source
  4. Africa’s Culture War: The Fight Over Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill - The World Newser
  5. Anti-gay bill in Uganda challenges Catholics to take a stand | National Catholic Reporter


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