The Kinshasa parliament is in the process of discussing legislation that will prohibit homosexuality, or "unnatural sexual practices." But the debate climate in Congo is much calmer than in neighbouring Uganda.
According to reports in the government-close Kinshasa newspaper 'La République', Congolese MP Ejiba Yamapia is currently gathering support for a bill formulated by him that would forbid certain "unnatural sexual practices," including same-sex relations.
Congo Kinshasa (DRC), along with most Central and West African nations, does not have any legislation regarding the country's sexual minorities. This is mostly due to the fact that homosexuality is an issue not known to the general population, as same-sex relations typically find other manifestations in traditional cultures.
However, according to pro-gay activists in the region, the loud anti-homosexuality debate in neighbouring countries such as Uganda has also been noted in Kinshasa, with local politicians taking interest in the "exotic" issue.
Deputy Yamapia told 'La République' that his proposal would imply some minor changes to the Congolese penal code, including "unnatural sexual practices" such as same-sex and man-animal relations as illegal and "immoral" conduct. Mr Yamapia foresees prison penalties and fines for practicing homosexuals.
The deputy says that he has gathered increased support for his proposal to criminalise homosexuality, "especially among female deputies" in the Kinshasa parliament. The deputies agreed that homosexuality was "contrary to African culture," agreeing with statements by leading politicians in countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda and Kenya.
However, Mr Yamapia is also finding resistance to his proposal in the Kinshasa parliament. 'La République' reports that several MPs strongly opposed criminalising homosexuality as this would "violate individual freedoms dearly proclaimed by the Constitution and goes against the current trend" of wider individual and human rights in the DRC.
Contrary to media in neighbouring East Africa, Congo's 'La République' reported about the proposal to criminalise homosexuality in a balanced way. The newspaper took note of arguments favouring and discouraging the new legislation. It also took note of 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."