Rwanda Needs to Legalise the Right of Association and Assembly for sexual Minorities

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By: Kainamura James

Rwanda has made tremendous strides in the region by not criminalizing homosexuality, however despite this good stance sexual minorities continue to face discrimination and violence in the society because they are deemed as misfits and are not able to fight back injustices because Lesbian, Gay , Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI)  organizations in Rwanda are not legally constituted since they have not been allowed the right to freely associate thus hence most of them operate underground and thus when one of their members face injustice and violence they cannot report the matter to the authorities due to fear of intimidation and harassment.

Deeper challenges are seen from the fact that LGBTI practises and advocacy are only  done in the urban city of Kigali but is considered an abomination in rural communities that still remain a taboo to most folk  who still consider it as a western custom being imposed onto treasured African traditions.

Adherence and tolerance to sexual minority groups and practices is still a farfetched thought especially within work and learning institutions. Many LGBTI members are still excluded from the developmental arena and where they cannot access education and earn a decent living from employment this is most evident from abject poverty that engulfs most LGBIT’s in Rwanda negating them to cheap daily labour.

Given that freedom of expression and assembly is at the core of a democratic society, and that the role of Governments in upholding these rights is fundamental,

The protection of rights to freedom of assembly and expression are essential for ensuring the accountability and responsiveness of governing authorities and thus also critical to the protection of all other basic human rights.

Under article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Rwanda is a party, any restrictions to the right to freedom of association must be “necessary in a democratic society,” and “in the interest of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Article 2 of the covenant requires countries to adhere to all the rights in the covenant, including freedom of association, without discrimination.

Without the essential right of LGBTI non-governmental organizations to operate freely in Rwanda, free of repressive and discriminatory restrictions, it has become impossible to campaign for the reform of discriminatory and violent practices against members of the LGBTI community.

According to a Lawyer from Human Rights First Rwanda Association LGBTI activists are entitled to protection and support, and to express themselves without fear of recrimination, just like other human rights defenders and it is against such background that LGBTI movements in Rwanda should be allowed to register as NGOS.