Sexuality, Poverty and Politics in Rwanda
IDS Evidence Report 131
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Recent legislative developments in Africa have focused international attention on the legal status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the continent.
Attempts by various African governments to revise or introduce new legislation on same-sex sexual conduct and marriage, and the response of the international community, has sparked extensive coverage of the associated political, social and cultural controversies. Away from the headlines are several African countries that have never criminalised same-sex sexual conduct and that are outliers to the apparent ‘trend’ of homophobia and of discriminatory legislation in the continent. One of these is Rwanda.
Compared with the situation in neighbouring countries, state-sponsored homophobia appears negligible in Rwanda, and violent attacks are minimal. Despite negative reports of Rwanda’s human rights record in areas such as civil and political rights, when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, human rights observers consistently report that there is no need for concern. In the international arena, Rwanda has emerged as an unlikely champion for LGBT rights, and domestically has designated sexual orientation as a ‘private matter’.
This study explores Rwanda’s relatively progressive position on LGBT-related issues and its implications for Rwandan civil society. It examines the strategies employed by national as well as international actors to advance LGBT rights and to address social and economic marginalisation.