Zimbabwe: Gays – a Lightning Rod for Debate

By Misheck Rusere


Harare — While Uganda announced a decision to ban 38 NGOs supporting gay rights this week, in Zimbabwe, homosexuality is becoming an increasingly divisive topic. President Mugabe is on record describing homosexuals as “worse than pigs and dogs”. Prime Minister Tsvangirai says judgment should be left to divine powers. Meanwhile, the public is being swayed by the political camps and their campaign-focused proclamations.

As the campaign for presidential elections heats up in Zimbabwe, the gay debate does too. Although sex between men is considered illegal, the country’s political parties have been unafraid to take a stance on homosexuality and express it in no uncertain terms.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has indicated that having homosexual rights included in the constitution, the drafting of which underway, is but a fantasy.

“It is condemned by nature. It is condemned by insects and that is why I have said they are worse than pigs and dogs…,” said Mugabe last autumn. “Do not get tempted into that [homosexuality]. You are young people. We will punish you severely.”

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party maintains that gays should be covered under the bill of rights. Although he prides himself on being a heterosexual “family man”, the leader himself says he is unwilling “to persecute, to judge, to condemn and to vilify people for their own opinions because judgment is a preserve of God the Almighty.”

Banishing gay supporters

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) says they are gravely worried about recent remarks made by cabinet minister Ignatious Chombo, who urged traditional leaders to banish all the people who support homosexuality from their areas of jurisdiction.

The organization said it was “concerned that such utterances will give rise to an increase in incidents of harassment, persecution, as well as unlawful arbitrary evictions”. ZLHR went on to say that such “evictions and deprivations are a violation of our national laws, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory”.

Baffled by politicians

Gays And Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) help propel the country’s homosexual rights movement. Director Chesterfield Samba is baffled by some politicians’ attitudes that incite the public to express hatred to members of his organization.

“Political leaders in Zimbabwe have pandered to public prejudices against LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex] individuals through public statements that justify the abuse and exclusion of anyone suspected of being [LGBTI],” he says.

“High-level leaders continue to fuel public prejudice against LGBTI individuals through public statements that endorse violence and abuse,” he adds. “In doing so, they ignore Zimbabwe’s voluntarily undertaken international human rights obligations to protect the rights of everyone under Zimbabwe’s jurisdiction without discrimination.”

Clearly, the future of gays – and the organizations that defend them – will depend on who is put into power. Whether Uganda’s recent ruling sets a precedent for Zimbabwe or other African nations also remains to be seen.—RNW


Posted by on Jun 25 2012. Filed under Breaking News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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