“Homosexuality is a danger against African values”
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the few African countries with no definitive legislation against LGBT-rights. But a newly presented proposition to criminalize homosexuality has been put forward by a Congolese MP. Such a criminalization would endanger the life of Rocky Moliba.
“We have no rights, we are nobody in the society,” says Rocky Moliba who is openly gay. With his tight black jeans, sand brown bag and matching big sun glasses it is hard to not notice him. Guests turn their heads as he enters the small cafe located in the suburb of Kinshasa. The giggling young teenagers in the next table try to discreetly take a picture of him. Like the others in the cafe they probably find him ridiculous. Feminim. Gay.
Rocky is used to the unwanted attention. “I’ve been, what you can call feminine, since I was a child. My parents remarked on it and would beat me hard. To correct me, fix what was wrong. I was fifteen when I ran away for the first time. They still don’t approve of my life and we have no contact at all. I live together with my sister who embraces me for who I am. But she is also affected by the bad relationship I have with my parents. Life is hard but I try to be hopeful.”
Like Rocky Moliba’s parents many Congolese perceive homosexuality as something unnatural. Steve Mbikayi, an MP with the Parti Travailliste Congolais (PTC), has denounced homosexuality for being “moral depravity.” Steve Mbikayi introduced in December 2013 a draft bill to the Congolese National Assembly in which he wishes to explicitly criminalize homosexuality.
In the bill Steve Mbikayi propose that so called 'counter-nature acts', which he defines as homosexuality and zoophilia, should be punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine of 1 million Congolese francs ($1,000). A transgender would face the same fine but a jail sentence of 3 to 12 years.
Article 40 in the current Congolese constitution states that “all individuals have the right to marry a person of their choice, of the opposite sex.” Despite of the wording there is today no direct legislation against LGBT-rights in the DRC. The country is one of the few African countries in which homosexual acts have not explicitly been outlawed. Homosexuals are however stigmatized and many remain in the closet or live a double life. Rocky Moliba says that his ex- boyfriend was one of them.
“I was fourteen and he twenty two. He moved later to Angola and is now married and with a family. We were together for four years. I haven’t been in a relationship ever since,” says Rocky Moliba.
Stigma has ironically left Rocky Moliba to use his sexuality for work. “I just wait for calls from clients who want to have sex. I started with prostitution after the break up with my boyfriend. An intercourse with penetration costs around $10. The clients vary from young men to uncles and married men. Often we have sex in a hotel where they already know me but it has happened that we do it at the client’s house as well. I’m very afraid of getting HIV but also other STD:s. But I try to insist on using condoms all the time.
Steve Mbikayi is not the first MP who has tried to pass an anti-homosexual bill in the DRC. In January 2009 the DRC made adoption by homosexuals illegal. In October 2010, a bill entitled the Law Concerning Sexual Practices Against Nature was presented before the parliament by MP and bishop Evariste Ejiba Yamapia. Also Evariste Ejiba Yamapia linked homosexuality with zoophilia, both according to her practices ‘against nature.’ Evariste Ejiba Yamapia sought also in the bill a ban of organizations, publications, posters, or pamphlets 'promoting unnatural sexual acts'. Yamapia’s bill reached for unclear reasons never parliament vote.
Steve Mbikayi claims that an anti-homosexuality bill is necessary in order to “preserve African values,” which, he insists, “have never tolerated romantic relationships between persons of the same sex.”
Homosexuality is in the DRC seen as something imported from the former Belgian colonial power and thus a product of the Western society. The DRC was until its independence in 1960 colonized by Belgium in where homosexual acts were decriminalized in 1794. Steve Mbikayi blames the Western leaders for excusing “unnatural acts."
“After Europe’s acceptance of gay marriage there is today a debate to start teaching sexuality to children in primary school, masturbation to six years old, the right of choosing one’s sex ...this is very serious," said Steve Mbikayi at a conference at the University of Kinshasa. He is approaching students and different religious assemblies to gain support in his anti-homosexuality campaign.
Awaiting the result
Ricky Moliba knows that the current law is not on his side but fears that the proposal will spark a witch hunt. “I have never been in jail for my sexuality but policemen often stop me in the street but. I’m very scared that something serious will happen one day. Just the other day a police man stopped me for no reason. After searching me he let me though go,” says Rocky.
He knows that he can not get any help from the police either. “I’ve been beaten many times. A group of five guys attacked me last month in September when I was waiting for transport home around midnight. They beat me down so hard that I started to bleed, and they took my phone. There’s nothing I can do about it, I have no legal rights.”
Rocky Moliba tries to be hopeful but admits that he is afraid. “With the proposal things will be even harder. I’m afraid of it. I have many gay friends. We exist but many hide their sexuality. Gay people will be hunted, especially us who openly show our sexuality. People see me in the street. They know that I’m gay and I don’t hide it. I will be in direct danger. But if I could choose between being gay or not? There is no question of choosing on whether to be gay or not. I’m gay. It’s as simple as that.”
If Steve Mbikayi is successful with his proposal, the bill could be brought up for debate in the next parliamentary session on 15 March 2015. And if the bill were to be accepted and signed into law, the DRC would become the 38th African country to criminalize homosexuality.
For the moment, same-sex activity is still legal in the DRC.