Parti Travailliste Congolais (PTC) MP Steve Mbikayi is moving forward with a bill to criminalize homosexuality in the Democratic Republic of Congo – alarming human rights advocates and HIV groups.
Mbikayi introduced a draft of his bill in the Congolese National Assembly in December and has now threatened to build a religious coalition around the bill and stage protests until the bill is passed.
The bill has 37 different articles that would outlaw homosexuals and transgender people so it is likely that the bill goes beyond merely criminalizing gay sex to criminalize other forms of expression of LGBTI identity.
Under Mbikayi’s proposal people convicted of being homosexuals would be jailed for between three and five years, while transgender people who were convicted would be jailed for between three and twelve years.
The Democratic Republic of Congo made adoption by homosexuals illegal in 2009 but a previous bill that sought to criminalize homosexuality that was put forward in 2010 failed without even a vote.
Mbikayi appears to be using the issue for political gain by wedging the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy of President Joseph Kabila.
That view was shared by several people working in the fields of human rights and HIV in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who told Think Africa Press that Mbikayi was simply being opportunist.
"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, said.
‘To me, it seems like political opportunism.’
‘Seeing that homosexuality in Africa is entering the international debate, he simply wants to draw attention to himself,’ Kinshasa University Center for Human Rights lawyer Patrick Civava said.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, is a former Belgian colony and did not inherit any laws against homosexuality as Belgium decriminalized gay sex in 1795.