Homophobic intolerance is rampant in the hospitals and clinics of Bukavu, the city at the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), next to Rwanda.
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By Alphonse Mihigo Ombeni
In Bukavu, the gay-friendly group Action Against Social Injustice (ALCIS) is seeking to end discrimination against 44 HIV-positive gay and bisexual men whose health is in jeopardy because they lack access to health care.
In the region’s public health system, the men experience prejudice and discrimination rather than receiving with HIV / AIDS treatment services.
ALCIS and the men learned of their HIV status during screening sessions that ALCIS conducted in 2016 under the sponsorship of the Global Fund.
The men need a place where they can receive care and respectful treatment, but ALCIS now fears that discrimination against them will worsen because of some Congolese legislators’ proposals to enact an anti-homosexuality law.
Those proposals, first advanced in 2010 and 2013, would revise the Congolese penal code to criminalize homosexuality and any sexual practices deemed to be “against nature,” including those of sex workers.
Members of parliament and their anti-LGBT allies have continued to wage their anti-gay hate campaign in churches and in universities, arguing that homosexuality is “a threat to the family” and an ” abomination.”
This article is designed to demonstrate the fact that an anti-homosexuality law would be contrary to:
- The Constitution of the DRC and
- DRC Law No. 08/011 of 2008, which protects the rights of people living with or affected by HIV.
The Constitution of the DRC (as amended by Law No. 11/002 of Jan. 20, 2011, revising certain articles of the earlier Constitution of the DRC of Feb. 18, 2006), is the nation’s supreme law. It guarantees the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Congolese, drawing inspiration from international and regional human rights instruments.
The Constitution protects the following human rights:
- Article 11 guarantees the right to liberty and equality in dignity and rights;
- Article 12 guarantees the equality of all before the law and the equal protection of the law;
- Article 31 guarantees the right to privacy;
- Article 47 guarantees the right to health.
This is by no means an exhaustive list because the Constitution of the DRC is progressive and provides sufficient protection for key populations.
The HIV Act
The HIV Acts (Congolese law 08/011 of July 14, 2008) guarantees the rights of people living with or affected by HIV / AIDS. Section 5 of Article 2 of this law recognizes homosexuals and sex workers as a vulnerable group that deserves protection. The law, which is based on Article 123 (16) of the DRC Constitution, expressly recognizes that any criminalization of certain practices by homosexuals and sex workers would be contrary to the spirit and purpose of the HIV Act and it would create legal impediments to the implementation of the national HIV and AIDS response.
This analysis of Congolese laws makes clear that it would be legally and ethically inappropriate to follow the course proposed by Congolese parliamentarians who have chosen the path of intolerance and seek to use social antipathy toward homosexuals and sex workers for political ends.
The author of this article, Alphonse Mihigo Ombeni, is executive coordinator of the LGBTI advocacy group Action Against Social Injustice (ALCIS).
- In Bukavu, anti-LGBTI hate crimes are common, condoned (June 2017, 76crimes.com)
- Congo: Trans victim of anti-LGBT attack seeks safety
- Uganda: Congolese refugee becomes LGBTI activist (October 2016, 76crimes.com)