In Rwanda, activists are fed up with the country’s superficial stance on LGBTQ rights. While Rwanda is often hailed as a progressive beacon in a region with harsh anti-LGBTQ laws, the reality for transgender and intersex individuals remains far from ideal.
Maily Isaro, a transgender woman, has faced relentless discrimination in Rwanda since coming out. It’s true that Rwanda is a more accepting place for LGBTQ individuals compared to its neighbors like Uganda and Ghana, which have enacted oppressive laws against them. However, that doesn’t mean Rwanda is doing enough.
Same-sex relationships aren’t illegal in Rwanda, but LGBTQ people still suffer from discrimination, violence, and stigma. Young LGBTQ individuals often drop out of school due to bullying and isolation, creating significant obstacles to their education and future.
Human rights activists are now pushing for legal changes that would provide true recognition and protection for transgender and intersex individuals. They want the outdated family and persons law, which limits sex to being strictly male or female, to be amended. This law, dating back to 2006, has done more harm than good, particularly to intersex individuals.
Intersex people are frequently subjected to non-consensual surgeries to conform to binary gender norms. This practice violates their rights and their right to bodily autonomy.
While there’s no guarantee that Rwanda will embrace these changes, activists remain hopeful. They believe that Rwanda’s progressive image can translate into real change for its LGBTQ community. A comfortable life should be the right of every Rwandan, regardless of their gender identity or expression.
Lawyer Francis Byaruhanga in Kigali shares this optimism. He believes that laws should evolve with changing times and circumstances. Changing the definition of sex from strictly male and female is not an impossible task, especially when international research supports a more inclusive approach.
Despite hosting LGBTQ-friendly events like hotel seminars and public pride celebrations, Rwanda still has a long way to go in providing true recognition and protection for transgender and intersex individuals. Activists are determined to turn the country’s image of tolerance into tangible rights and freedoms for all.