- Homosexuality has never been criminalised and sexual orientation has been designated a 'private matter' by government
- Civil society organisations have some freedom to work on LGBT issues as long as they are aligned with the government's agenda
Compared with the situation in neighbouring countries, state-sponsored homophobia appears negligible in Rwanda, and violent attacks are minimal. Rwanda has never criminalised same-sex sexual conduct and is an outlier to the apparent ‘trend’ of homophobia and of discriminatory legislation in the continent. Despite negative reports of Rwanda’s human rights record in areas such as civil and political rights, when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, human rights observers consistently report that there is no need for concern. In the international arena, Rwanda has emerged as an unlikely champion for LGBT rights, and domestically has designated sexual orientation as a ‘private matter’.
This case study was a product of collaboration between IDS and the Centre for Human Rights Rwanda
This case study explored Rwanda's relatively progressive position on LGBT-related issues and its implications for Rwandan civil society. It examined the strategies employed by national as well as international actors to advance LGBT rights and to address social and economic marginalisation. It analysed the strategies employed by national as well as international actors to advance LGBT rights and to address social and economic marginalisation.
The case study addressed three key themes:
- How stigma related to sexual orientation and gender identity contributed to the social and economic marginalisation of LGBT people in Rwanda
- The strategies employed by civil society organisations to address this kind of social and economic marginalisation
- The scope for joint working between civil society, development agencies and the Government of Rwanda to address such marginalisation
The study was conducted in Rwanda during May and June 2014 in the capital city Kigali and the eastern border town of Rubavu. A multi-method approach was employed, combining informal consultations and semi-structured interviews with participant observation. In addition, data was drawn from a two-day capacity-building workshop that the authors designed and facilitated in consultation with local partners.