Bishop Ejiba Yamapia introduced a bill to criminalise homosexuality, The Sexual Practices Against Nature Bill, into the Congolese parliament in October 2010. The bishop is an Evangelical Christian preacher and Member of Parliament.
If passed, the bill would criminalize homosexuality and sexual practices with animals such as zoophilia and bestiality. It would also criminalise any activities that promote the rights of LGBTI persons. Section 174h3 of the Bill stipulates that, “all publications, posters, pamphlets, (or) films highlighting or likely to arouse or encourage sexual practices against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC” and “all associations that promote or defend sexual relations against nature are forbidden within the territory of the DRC.”
Any offender contravening this Bill will be punished by 3 to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of 500,000 Congolese francs (Section 174h1).
In the preamble of the draft legislation, Yamapia said: “The moral rules tell us that homosexuality (lesbianism), zoophilia is a qualified moral depravity of abomination, references to the Bible and other writings. This law has the merit of contributing to the recovery of morals, the family protection and preservation of cultural identity “of the DRC.
The bill met with some resistance in parliament on the grounds that it violates the individual freedoms guaranteed by the Congolese constitution. The Parliament sent the bill to the Socio-Cultural Committee on 22 October 2010. It was not debated by the Committee during the last or current session of parliament. In an interview Jean Bedel Kaniki of Hirondelles Bukavu, an LGBTI organisation in the DRC predicted that it will be debated during the next session of Parliament that starts in June 2011.
He said: “If nothing is done, considering the support the bill has received in the public opinion, the parliament will probably pass the law that criminalizes homosexuality. Elections are around the corner; therefore the vote of the parliament will depend on the role that law could play in political campaign and calculation. “
Hirondelles Bukavu has struggled to raise funds to challenge this bill in DRC.
Congo’s ‘La République’ newspaper noted arguments favouring and discouraging the new legislation, recognising the fact that “the current global trend is towards tolerance towards sexual practices” that were considered “immoral” among most Congolese. The newspaper concluded that, if approved, the implementation of the law would be difficult and questionable, because it “aims to punish the behaviour of individuals usually done in private.”
According to pro-gay activists in the region, the loud anti-homosexuality debate in neighbouring countries such as Uganda has been noted in Kinshasa, with local politicians taking an interest in the “exotic” issue.
Discussion has focused on the risk of violating international conventions ratified by countries such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter of human rights and peoples. Questions about the constitutionality of the proposed law were met with arguments about the need to enforce perceived Christian moral codes through the constitution.