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Rwanda to Finalize Draft of New Law that Could Criminalize Being Gay

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The lower house of the Rwandan Parliament on Wednesday will debate a final draft of a new penal code that would criminalize homosexuality for the first time in that country, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reported Tuesday.

Article 217 of the draft Penal Code Act will criminalize "[a]ny person who practices, encourages or sensitizes people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice."

The independent publication Box Turtle Bulletin adds that the Penal Code “would also ban counseling and advocacy that could be interpreted as ‘encouraging or sensitizing’ people to enter into same-sex relationships.” That stipulation could gravely impact the ability to deliver adequate medical services to LGBT people in the country.

If approved, the legislation will head to Rwanda’s Senate in early 2010.

The proposal comes shortly after a similar bill was posed in neighboring Uganda. The Ugandan bill originally called for the execution of gay people charged as so-called “repeat offenders” and life imprisonment of anyone engaging in “homosexual activity.”

GLAAD will continue to follow the media’s coverage of the pending anti-gay law in Rwanda. Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org as they become available.

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