President Pierre Nkurunziza

Between 10,000 and 20,000 Burundians took to the streets last week to demand that homosexuality be criminalised following the rejection by the senate of a bill that sought to do so.

AFP reports that the protest, which was organised by the government, was the largest demonstration in the country since 2005 when President Pierre Nkurunziza was elected.

According to the ruling party’s chairperson, “Homosexuality is a sin. It is a culture which has been imported to sully our morals and is practiced by immoral people”.

“If we love our country, if we love our culture, we must ban this practice which will draw only misfortune for us,” he added.

Critics have accused the president and the ruling party of using the issue of homosexuality to generate votes. A self-described ‘born again’ Christian, President Nkurunziza is believed to support the criminalising of homosexuality.

Last month, Burundi’s senate rejected a revision to its criminal code that would have banned “anyone who engages in sexual relations with a person of the same sex.”

The bill is now set to go back to the Burundian National Assembly for consideration.

The provision would have been the first so-called “sodomy law” in the country’s history and provided for penalties including imprisonment of between three months and two years and a fine.

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