A demonstration thousands strong in
Bujumbura, Burundi Friday called on lawmakers to criminalize being
gay, reports AFP.
It was the largest protest yet since
President Pierre Nkurunziza came to power in 2005, attracting between
10,000 and 20,000 people.
The protesters were angry that senators
had rejected an amendment that would criminalize being gay when
voting on a new draft criminal code law on February 17. In November,
Burundi's lower chamber of Parliament had voted in favor of the
amendment that prescribes two years in jail for being gay.
Speaking to reporters at the event,
CNDD-FDD Party Chairman Jeremie Ngendakumana said, “The CNDD-FDD is
protesting today to support the [view of the] majority of Burundians
that homosexuality should be punished by law.”
“Homosexuality is a sin. It is a
culture which has been imported to sully our morals and is practiced
by immoral people.”
“If we love our country, if we love
our culture, we must ban this practice which will draw only
misfortune for us,” he added.
Critics accused Nkurunziza and his
CNDD-FDD Party of “manipulating” the issue in their favor by
pandering to the country's popular opposition to being gay to retain
power in 2010.
Anti-gay sentiment in Africa has been
on the rise in recent years. Ethiopian religious leaders recently
called on lawmakers to constitutionally ban being gay. In making
their case, the religious leaders called being gay “the pinnacle of
immorality” and blamed it for an increase in sexual attacks on boys
and young men. Nigerian leaders attempted to pass a law last year
that would have criminalized associating with a known gay person.
Gambia's president has called for the beheading of gay men and women.
And human rights groups have condemned the harsh eight year prison
sentence given to nine men in Senegal who were found guilty of being