Democratic Republic of Congo MP Promotes Anti-Gay Bill

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday March 12, 2014

A member of parliament from the Democratic Republic of Congo is pushing for an anti-LGBT bill that mirrors Uganda's controversial measure that was signed into law last month, All Africa reports.

Steve Mbikayi, an MP with the Parti Travailliste, introduced a draft bill last December to the Congolese National Assembly that would criminalize homosexuality. The measure would jail gay people for up to five years in prison and transgender people for up to 12 years. The proposed law would also carry a minimum sentence of three years.

The DRC is one of the few African countries that does not have any laws that directly ban or harm LGBT people.

According to All Africa, Mbikayi spent most of February touring the country in order to spread awareness of the bill, doing radio and television interviews. The politician even spoke at a conference at the University of Kinshasa, located in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, where he condemned homosexuality and said the West is condoning "unnatural acts," like pedophilia and bestiality. He also said the bill is constitutional, adding that the Congolese constitution states, "all individuals have the right to marry a person of their choice of the opposite sex."

The bill has not been released to the public but Think African Press was able to see the measure. The publication reports it has 37 articles that would ban homosexuality and being transgender. Besides the prison sentences, those found guilty under the proposed law would also face a $1,000 fine.

"The bill emanates from the Travailliste Party's philosophy," Mbikayi told the Think Africa Press. "In relation to our culture, homosexuality is an 'anti-value' that comes from abroad. Already, in our country, seeing a man with a man or a woman with a woman is considered scandalous. So I promised my base that I would take care of the issue and penalize homosexuals."

In 2009, DRC officials passed a bill that banned LGBT people from adopting children. A year later, a bill called Law Concerning Sexual Practices Against Nature was introduced, which shared similarities to Mbikayi's measure.

The bill aimed to modify the penal code and law on sexual violence by criminalizing homosexuality, which would sentence people to three to five years in prison and a fine of $200. It would also have prohibited organizations, publications and other media from "promoting unnatural sex acts," similar to Russia's anti-gay law.

The bill was never voted on in a parliamentary session, however. LGBT rights activists are hoping Mbikayi's bill has the same fate.

"In the city [Kinshasa], we know gays and transvestites who are known and accepted by their communities. No-one would try to attack them," Okakessema Olivier Nyamana, a lawyer from an NGO that works with HIV-positive people told Think African Press "To me, it seems like political opportunism."

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