This report focuses specifically on the situation of homosexual persons in Rwanda. However, reference will be made at times to the acronym LGBT, which is used by many sources but covers other dimensions. The word “homosexual” may refer to women as well as to men but where the specific dimension of their experience is discussed, the terms ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ will be used.
Information on gender identity in Rwanda is also included in this COI Focus whenever it is part of the larger context of LGBT rights.
Documentary research covered the period from 2014 until 22 October 2019.
The Rwandan Criminal Code does not criminalize homosexuality or same-sex relations. The Rwandan Constitution forbids discrimination based on a variety of grounds, including gender, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.
Cedoca did not find any information on legal proceedings against LGBT people. NGOs reported that it is difficult for LGBT persons to find appropriate legal aid. Some organisations are of the view that LGBT persons cannot obtain legal or police protection because they face prejudice and ignorance in state institutions. The high level of stigmatization and social discrimination is also a factor preventing LGBT persons to file a complaint. On the other hand, some LGBT persons declare they do not experience any discrimination from the authorities.
Several sources claim that harassment, arrests and short illegal detentions of LGBT people still take place under false accusations, such as offenses against accepted standards of behaviour. Auxiliary police forces or military are often to blame.
The consulted sources unanimously emphasize discrimination, stigmatization and human rights violations of the LGBT community in Rwandan society, which is culturally conservative and widely influenced by religious views. Most LGBT people report that it is very difficult to "come out" for fear of being stigmatized and excluded by their relatives, friends or neighbours. In rural areas, negative attitudes towards LGBT people and their social isolation are more prevalent than in cities, where some LGBT people dare to be more open about their sexual orientation.
A survey conducted in 2008 and 2009 among one hundred gay men in Kigali shows that one out of five respondents had suffered ill-treatment, including sexual violence, on account of their sexual orientation. Although instances of violence are still being reported, violence against LGBT people has significantly decreased since 2009, according to a survey published by Laterite in 2018.
The consulted sources identify different areas where LGBT people face social discrimination. Some witnesses report rejection by their families. Others are victims of harassment and discrimination by students or teaching staff in educational institutions. Some LGBT people complain about stigmatization on the labour and housing markets, and eviction from their homes. School dropout, illiteracy, unemployment, homelessness and poverty are particularly high within the LGBT community.
As for health care, access to conventional medical facilities is difficult because of the stigmatization LGBT people experience there. Some organizations, especially in the capital Kigali, offer medical services and other help to LGBT people.
Since 2004, several LGBT rights organizations have emerged in Rwanda, mainly in Kigali. These are rarely officially registered and do not always identify themselves as LGBT associations for fear of being refused registration by the authorities. They also lack resources and expertise. Some more generalist organizations include LGBT people in their services and advocacy. LGBT organizations are reluctant to speak to the Rwandan media, which they consider homophobic.
President Kagame has declared that homosexuality is “not a problem” in Rwanda. However, the president and most politicians do not usually speak out publicly about homosexuality. Several sources speak of a strategic silence on the part of the authorities. The political mobilization of the LGBT community is limited.
Several sources stress the very negative stance of Christian and Muslim clerics, who advocate discrimination and intolerance towards LGBT people. However, the TFAM Church in Kigali was created specifically to include LGBT people.
The policy implemented by the Commissioner General is based on a thorough analysis of accurate and up-to-date information on the general situation in the country of origin. This information is collated in a professional manner from various, objective sources, including the EASO, the UNHCR, relevant international human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, professional literature and coverage in the media. When determining policy, the Commissioner General does not only examine the COI Focuses written by Cedoca and published on this website, as these deal with just one aspect of the general situation in the country of origin. The fact that a COI Focus could be out-of-date does not mean that the policy that is being implemented by the Commissioner General is no longer up-to-date.
When assessing an application for asylum, the Commissioner General not only considers the actual situation in the country of origin at the moment of decision-making, he also takes into account the individual situation and personal circumstances of the applicant for international protection. Every asylum application is examined individually. An applicant must comprehensively demonstrate that he has a well-founded fear of persecution or that there is a clear personal risk of serious harm. He cannot, therefore, simply refer back to the general conditions in his country, but must also present concrete, credible and personal facts.
There is no policy paper for this country available on the website.