Article 16 of Rwanda’s Constitution protects equality under the law and prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, origin, ethnic background, clan, sex, opinion, religion, or social status”. However, there is no provision in the law explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and LBTI persons are effectively prohibited access to any legal recourse for discrimination that they face.
Currently, Rwanda does not have any laws that criminalise same-sex acts, but same-sex conduct is considered a taboo, and the Rwandan government continues its refusal to enact legislation protecting the rights of the LBTI communities.
In 2011, Rwanda became the only country in Central East Africa, and one of six countries in all of Africa to support the historic Joint Statement on Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity. Rwanda also supported a UN resolution in 2017 that condemned countries that use the death penalty as punishment for consensual same-sex relationships.
The CEDAW Committee did not provide any SOGIESC-focused recommendations to Rwanda in 2017 and 2021. While the 2015 List of Issues (LOI) also did not include LBTI-inclusive questions, the July 2022 LOI contains a question about the measures to ensure the economic protection of women in de facto unions, including customary marriages, as well as in same-sex unions between women. The State party report from 2021, however, has no mention of LBTI constituencies.
In 2015 the Committee did provide the State party with some general observations and recommendations that could also be applicable to the LBTI constituencies: (a) decriminalising abortion and removal of barriers for access to legal abortion, and providing women with access to good post-abortion care;
(b) strengthen measures to prevent trafficking in refugee camps;
(c) combat all forms of gender-based violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, paying particular attention to disadvantaged groups, including for women in conflict situations. However, these are not categorised within the observations as LBTI specific recommendations.