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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 18, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 11
Dem. Republic of Congo considers anti-Gay law
Section One
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Dem. Republic of Congo considers anti-Gay law

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The new session of the Democratic Republic of Congo's Assembly, which convenes this month, will take up a bill criminalizing same-sex relations for the first time in the country's history.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the country formerly known as Zaire.

The Sexual Practices Against Nature Bill was introduced in its Assembly last year.

Section 2 of the bill lumps same-sex relations together with bestiality as 'sexual practices against nature.'

The bill also apparently criminalizes Gay porn, sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention materials, and any activities that promote LGBT rights.

Section 174h3 of the Bill, provides that 'all publications, posters, pamphlets, [or] films highlighting or likely to arouse or encourage sexual practices against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC.'

It goes on to say that 'all associations that promote or defend sexual relations against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC.'

According to section 174h1 of the proposed law, violations would be punished by three to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 Congolese francs - about $55.25. This is a huge fine in a country where the World Bank estimates yearly household consumption at only $57.

Unlike Uganda, where anti-Gay legislation dates back to the country's colonial past, the DRC has never had laws against same-sex relations. The country was formerly a Belgian colony. Belgium decriminalized same-sex relations in 1794.

Also unlike Uganda, 50% of the DRC's population is Roman Catholic. All other Christian denominations account for 46% of the population.

The DRC's President Joseph Kabila is an Anglican, a small minority in his country.

Uganda's Christians are about evenly divided between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, with other Christian denominations making up only seven percent of the population.

Jean Bedel Kaniki, President of Groupe Hirondelles Bukavu, an LGBT rights organization in the DRC said when the bill was introduced last November that his organization would begin to organize to defeat the bill.

'Hirondelles' is French for 'swallows,' a slang word for 'Gay.'

Kaniki said that several LGBT organizations had already set up a joint working group in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC.

'We are trying to mobilize the diplomats and also to have people in parliament who can intervene in our favor to the president of the parliament,' he added.

According to Kaniki, DRC groups have the support of more experienced LGBTI organizations in neighboring countries - Horizon Community Association (HOCA) from Rwanda, Mouvement Pour Les Libertis Individuells (MOLI) and Humure from Burundi, as well as other LGBT organizations from Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa.

In an open letter sent to human rights organizations and activists, Congolese LGBT groups denounced the proposed bill as a gross human rights violation that goes against all international treaties ratified by the DRC.

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