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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Britain speaks out against new Africa law

Britain's international development minister Ivan Lewis has strongly condemned the recent decision by Burundi to criminalise gay sex.

During a visit to the small country in Eastern Africa which shares a boarder with Rwanda, the minister repeatedly called for a change of policy at the highest official levels and to the media over the new law, which was passed by the Burundian President on 22 April.

It makes consensual same-sex relations a crime for the first time in the country's history, punishable by up to two years in prison and up to an $80 (about £50) fine.

During a meeting with Burundi's president, Pierre Nkurunziza, Lewis warned him he was out of step with global opinion.

Lewis said: “In any society, it should be totally unacceptable to criminalise anyone because of their sexual orientation”.

“I have raised with the president the UK’s concerns about the new penal code which criminalises gay sex.

“The UK government has made it clear to the president and the government of Burundi that this legislation is unacceptable and should be repealed as a matter of urgency.

“It is important to highlight that the UK Department for International Development campaigns and supports a broad range of human rights across the world.

“It is my sincere hope that the government of Burundi listens to the UK, the EU and other members of the international community and repeals this law.

“It must allow Burundi’s gay and lesbian community to live their lives free from harassment, intimidation and the threat of jail.”



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