Contra Nocendi International reiterates its disappointment in the situation in Burundi regarding the rights of same-sex citizens. Indeed, following the 29th and latest session of the Universal Period Review (UPR) of the United Nations, Burundi still refused to decriminalize same-sex sexual relations.
On 22 April 2009, Burundi adopted legislation n°1/05 article 567 of the penal code, stating that “anyone who has sexual relations with a person of the same sex is punishable by 3 months to 2 years in prison or a fine of BIF 50 000 to 100 000 or one of these sentences only”.
After the interactive dialogue where six countries (Iceland, Timor-Leste, Ecuador, Australia, Uruguay and Argentina) recommended decriminalizing homosexuality, Burundi’s final remark was to bluntly reject the case for decriminalization of same-sex sexual relations on the basis that “the mind-set in Burundi has not developed yet to allow for this”.
Contra Nocendi is sceptical of the reasoning behind this argument, as Burundi only criminalized sexual relations between same sex persons in 2009. Hence, even if the general mind-set in Burundi was to not tolerate homosexuality, the fact that it only became a criminal offence 8 years ago demonstrates how unnecessary its criminalization is. Moreover, as Contra Nocendi has previously demonstrated in a recent article, this law exacerbated the already-existing homophobic culture.
Consequently, Contra Nocendi joins the international community to urge the government of Burundi to decriminalize same-sex relations in order to not only influence changed mind-sets with regards to homosexuality, but also and more importantly, in order to respect and protect the freedoms and rights of all Burundians, regardless of sexual orientation.