Threatening to bolster Africa’s reputation as an increasingly homophobic continent, Rwanda’s parliament is set to vote on a new anti-gay law.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has reported that the lower house of the Rwandan Parliament will hold its final debate on a draft revision of the penal code that will, for the first time, make homosexuality a crime in Rwanda.

The proposed Article 217 of the draft Penal Code Act will criminalise “[a]ny person who practices, encourages or sensitises people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice.”

Rwanda’s Chamber of Deputies is expected to vote on this law before the end of the week. If the Chamber of Deputies approves, the draft code will go before the Rwandan Senate most likely in early 2010.

“Article 217 violates Rwandans’ basic human rights and is contradictory to the Rwandan Constitution as well as various regional and international conventions,” said the IGLHRC.

The organisation further said that it, the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), and Rwanda’s Horizon Community Association (HOCA) will shortly issue a call to action to demand that the Rwandan Parliament withdraw this article.

The proposed legislation closely follows the introduction of a similar measure in neighbouring Uganda, where the nation’s parliament is currently debating an Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The proposed Ugandan law would prohibit all LGBT activism and organising, would further criminalise consensual same-sex conduct between adults, which is already illegal in Uganda, and in some cases apply the death penalty.

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