Voices for Equality: Rwanda
By Shawn M. Gaylord
Silence can be its own type of persecution. It can marginalize an entire social group, driving its members underground, making them afraid to stand up and proudly proclaim who they are, or even just exist openly as themselves.
But sometimes silence is the best option when the national conversation about homosexuality treats it as a myth or a Western import supposedly eroding the country’s moral fabric.
But brave Rwandan activists are shattering this silence. They often do so at grave personal risk, fighting against an environment rife with homophobia.
While Rwanda is one of a handful of African nations that does not have any laws specifically criminalizing homosexuality, there is widespread political and cultural animosity towards the LGBT community. Activists have noted increasing acts of violence against LGBT Rwandans, calls to incite such violence, and growing interest in excluding the LGBT community from constitutionally guaranteed rights.
That’s why activists are asking for the support of the international community, including the United States, as they work against homophobia and towards inclusion.
One goal for LGBT activists is for the U.S. Department of State to engage with Rwandan government leadership to create an open dialogue on LGBT concerns, paving the way for LGBT Rwandans to represent their interests personally.
For more info on the state of human rights for LGBT people in Africa, check out Human Rights First’s African Voices for Equality Map, which profiles some of the brave individuals speaking out for equality and dignity for all people.