“They thought that by beating me,
they could change me.”
Pascal, biochemistry student
and AIDS educator, age 22

On April 22, 2009, the president of Burundi,
Pierre Nkurunziza, signed into law a new criminal
code that contains a provision making sexual
relations between people of the same sex illegal
for the first time in the country’s history.

The law was a fierce blow to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in
Burundi, who only in recent years, and in very small numbers, had begun to come out,
organize, and demand that their rights be respected. The Association for Respect and
Rights for Homosexuals (Association pour le Respect et les Droits des Homosexuels,
ARDHO), was founded in the capital, Bujumbura, in 2003, initially as a support group for
LGBT people. Inspired by what they saw as a global wave in favor of LGBT rights, members
began traveling to gay rights conferences in other African countries; educating
themselves and others about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; and
speaking out on Burundian radio stations about discrimination they faced in their daily
lives.

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