Burkina Faso’s military junta bans homosexual unions

Burkina Faso’s military junta has announced a ban on homosexual acts, making it the latest African state to crack down on same-sex relations despite strong opposition from Western powers.

Homosexuality was frowned upon in the socially conservative West African state, but it was never outlawed.

Justice Minister Edasso Rodrigue Bayala said the junta’s cabinet had now approved legislation to make it a punishable offence, but he did not give further details.

The military seized power in Burkina Faso in 2022, and has pivoted towards Russia after drastically reducing ties with former colonial power, France.

Homosexual acts were decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but President Vladimir Putin’s government has been cracking down on the LGBTQ community, including banning what it calls “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”.

Burkina Faso’s decision to outlaw homosexual relations is part of an overhaul of its marriage laws.

The new legislation, which still needs to be passed by the military-controlled parliament and signed off by junta leader Ibrahim Traoré, only recognises religious and customary marriages.

“Henceforth homosexuality and associated practices will be punished by the law,” the justice minister was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

Capt Traoré took power in September 2022 after overthrowing another military ruler, Lt Col Paul-Henri Damiba, accusing him of failing to quell an Islamist insurgency that has gripped Burkina Faso since 2015.

Burkina Faso was among 22 out of 54 African states where same-sex relations were not criminalised.

Unlike in many former British colonies, it did not inherit anti-homosexuality laws after independence from France in 1960.

Muslims make up around 64% of Burkina Faso’s population and Christians 26%. The remaining 10% of people follow traditional religions or have no faith.

Many African states have been taking a tougher stand against the LGBTQ community in recent years.

Uganda is among those that have adopted legislation to further crack down on the community, despite strong condemnation from local rights groups and Western powers.

The daughter of Cameroon’s president drew mixed reaction after she came out as a lesbian last week.

Brenda Biya, who lives abroad, said she hoped that her coming out would help change the law banning same-sex relations in the country.

Cameroon has been ruled with an iron-hand by her 91-year-old father, Paul Biya, since 1982.

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