(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
In 2009, and for the first time in Burundi’s history, same-sex sexual activity was criminalised. The lower house of Burundi’s Parliament first passed a law criminalising homosexual acts in November 2008, but it was rejected in the Senate by a vote of 36-7. The legislation then passed back to the Assembly, which was able to overrule the Senate and restore the amendment. President Pierre Nkurunziza subsequently signed the article into legislation on 22 April 2009. Article 567 of the 2009 Burundian Penal Code punishes same-sex relations with 3 months to 2 years imprisonment and a fine.
The criminalization of same-sex relations violates the Burundian Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy (Art 28), the right to be free from discrimination (Art 17), and the rights protected by international conventions to which Burundi is party (Art 19). The Penal Code contravenes the ICCPR and the African Charter on Human & People’s Rights, which should be binding according to Article 19 of the Constitution.
No published cases have been found. Would be grateful if users of the website are able to refer us to any that they know of which involved LGBTI cases from Burundi.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE’S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
Anti-gay sentiment has reportedly been on the rise in recent years, as evidenced by the implementation of a new law criminalizing same-sex relations, despite no history of homophobic laws in Burundi. In defiance of widespread criticism from human rights and gay rights groups, the new law was introduced under pressure from president Pierre Nkurunziza, an outspoken anti-gay figure. After the senate rejected the amendment, 20,000 people took to the streets of Bujumbara on 12 March to call for the amendment to be reinstated. According to Human Rights Watch, the president’s party, CNDD-FDD bussed in school children and adults from rural provinces to participate in the protests.
The President of the National Assembly’s Human Rights Commission, Fidele Mbunde, a proponent of the amendment, said that he did not intend for arrests to be made under the law, but for it to ‘send a message about Burundian values’. The CNDD-FDD Party Chairman, Jeremie Ngendakumana, believes that ‘homosexuality is a sin. It is a culture which has been imported to sully our morals and is practiced by immoral people.’ Such anti-gay rhetoric is widespread among politicians with the President himself stating on national television that being gay is a ‘curse’.
Scott Long, the director of LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, criticized the new laws, expressing that the government has fallen back on ‘custom’ and ‘culture’ to justify this repressive step. Not only are public acts of indecency criminalised, but the legislation could also mean imprisonment of people for their actual or imputed sexual orientation, including private sexual relations between consenting adults. Human Rights Watch and others put forward a petition in April 2009, urging the Burundian Government to repeal article 567.
LGBTI persons face discrimination and marginalization by the community due to their sexual orientation. Families sometimes disown gay children who refuse to deny homosexual identity. Burundian LGBTI group Humure reports that many gay people enter opposite-sex marriages due to social pressure and that consequently 90% of gay men are married. Since the 2009 amendment to the penal code, discrimination against homosexuals has increased, however as of the end of 2010, no one had been prosecuted under the new provision.
In the Human Rights Watch report ‘Forbidden,’ members of the LGBTI community talk about how they have been fired from their jobs, beaten by family and neighbours, and evicted from their homes because of their sexual orientation. The report found that LGBTI community fears that they are more likely to be beaten or mistreated by policy or their fellow citizens simply for their purported sexual orientation. Another fear is that the enforcement of the legislation will undermine the attempts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS among the LGBTI community.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
Bp 648, Bujumbura – Burundi
Tel: +257 22 27 45 90
Our objectives are to:
- Fight all forms of discrimination based upon sexual orientation.
- Fight AIDS within the LGBTI community.
- Contribute to improving the life of people who are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
No Country of Origin specialists have been found. Would be grateful if users of the website are able to refer us to any that they know of who focus specifically on issues faced by the LGBTI community in Burundi.
Researched by: Rhiannon Archer