LGBTQI+ individuals face significant challenges in Rwanda. Like many other African countries, Rwanda does not recognise same-sex relationships and the queer community experiences discrimination and stigma.
And while homosexuality is not criminalised, many live in fear of persecution, with some hiding their identities in the hope of avoiding social repercussions.
In a groundbreaking move, a sex and family education book, published in the Central-East African nation, outlines LGBTQI+ relationships and addresses gender identity – without the harsh judgment that usually follows these topics.
The book’s aim is to provide sex education to curb teen pregnancies and at the same time it incorporates progressive views on gender, stating that sex and gender are not the same thing.
The publication of the comprehensive sexuality education toolkit, titled Amahitamo Yanjye (My Choice), is being seen as a step forward in promoting LGBTQI+ rights and acceptance in Rwanda. By acknowledging same-sex relationships in a youth-oriented book, it sends a powerful message of inclusivity and support for the LGBTQI+ community.
The Rwandan government has clarified that the book is the product of an organisation known as Plan International Rwanda and that it has not been incorporated in schools.
“This toolkit has not been validated, endorsed, or adopted by either the Ministry of Health, Rwanda Biomedical Center, or the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion,” said the Government of Rwanda in an official statement in April.
It added that “Sexual orientation and gender identity are private matters, and the health and well-being of all Rwandans are protected without discrimination under existing law and policy.”
Societal transformation does not happen overnight, and the road ahead may be challenging.
While many have embraced the change as a symbol of progress, some conservative groups have predictably voiced opposition. It is crucial to acknowledge that societal transformation does not happen overnight, and the road ahead may be challenging.
Advocates and activists have not backed down in their calls for comprehensive legal protection for the LGBTQI+ community. The country must still implement anti-discrimination laws and society still needs to transform its attitudes and regard for same-sex marriages and for the trans communities.
The book is a welcome catalyst, though, and opens a door to future discussion for the rights of Rwanda’s LGBTQI+ community. Amahitamo Yanjye celebrates love and relationships regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Authored with a compassionate approach, the book marks a shift towards fostering an inclusive and accepting society for all Rwandans.
Perhaps this small step may allow the doors to open just a crack wider for LGBTQI+ individuals in the African country.