The Human Rights Watch (HRC) has called on Burundi to reverse its law criminalising gay sex.
The law, which came into effect in April, has reportedly led to greater discrimination against gays and lesbians, with many being fired from their jobs, facing violence from family and neighbours and being evicted from their homes.
The HRC made these comments in the publication of its multimedia project, “Forbidden: Institutionalising Discrimination against Gays and Lesbians in Burundi”.
The project contains narratives, photographs and voice-recorded testimonials of Burundian gays and lesbians, which highlights the community’s daily struggles.
Georgette Gagnon, director of the HRC in Africa, said: “The government needs to listen to these voices to understand the harm it is doing to Burundians with its state-sanctioned discrimination
“The government should rescind this law and instead work to promote equality and understanding.”
The project highlights the entrenched homophobia within the country, with participants saying how, even before the adoption of the new law, they couldn’t go to the police or courts for protection from homophobic abuse.
Mike, 17, one of the LGBT Burundians in the project, said: “Many youths are closed-minded about homosexuality, because they don’t understand exactly what it is.”
Cynthia, a 25-year-old waitress and another participant, told the HRC: “I was shocked when I heard about the new law against homosexuality. I want them to give us liberty. We are people like everyone else. It’s God who created us. The law won’t change us.”
In April, President Pierre Nkurunziza brought into effect a bill that made homosexuality an offence punishable by up to two years in prison, sparking worldwide condemnation.
The HRC is urging the Burundian government, through this project, to repeal the law and to put an end to the suffering of its LGBT citizens.