- Burundi senators have voted against the amendment in the bill criminalising homosexuality in the country. Last November, the lower house of parliament passed the bill making same-sex acts punishable by between three months and two years in prison.
Local news reports said the Senate had on 6 February completed a series of amendments to the National Assembly version, which include among others the abolition of death penalty and was reported to be getting an amounting pressure not to amend the provision on homosexuality.
36 senators of the 43 who attended the parliamentary session voted against the amendment criminalising homosexuality, Senate speaker Gervais Rufyikiri was reported to have said.
Justice Minister Jean-Bosco Ndikumana said he was not disappointed if the amendment on homosexuality is rejected.
The provision could have been the first law criminalising gays and lesbians in the country's history.
Human Rights Watch had said the provision would violate the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Burundi has signed.
The senate version now goes back to the national assembly for adoption but if it fails to be passed, the two chambers have to form a commission to harmonise the bill before the president approves it.
The government of Burundi's latest move comes in the context of considerable hostility to homosexuality in the East African region. Two-thirds of African nations maintain criminal penalties for consensual same-sex behaviour.
In recent years several countries, including Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda, have threatened to strengthen laws against homosexuality.
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