Delegates at ICASA (Pic: GALZ / Twitter)
LGBTI activists attending an international AIDS conference in Zimbabwe have had material confiscated and displays damaged by government officials.
Some LGBTI groups had feared they would face harassment after it was announced earlier this year that the 18th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) would be hosted in Harare from 29 November to 4 December.
While the government had promised not to interfere, activists were in fact targeted when they arrived at Harare International Airport on Sunday, with workshop material and promotional items being seized at customs.
According to local media, agents believed to be from the Central Intelligence Agency also tore down an exhibition stand erected by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR).
Kene Esom, AMSHeR Executive Director, told NewsDay that the items confiscated at the airport were in the hands of Zimbabwe’s Revenue Authority.
“The material is still held because the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is still conducting an assessment on them. The challenge is that we have attended many conferences of this nature and we have never been required to pay duty on such conference material, especially when you had bid to host the conference,” Esom said.
It’s believed the material was ultimately returned and the AMSHeR stand was allowed to be displayed, following intervention by the country’s National AIDS Council.
No other incidents of official intimidation have since been reported and Zimbabwe’s LGBT rights group GALZ has also been allowed to place promotional and educational material at a stand in the conference’s community village.
Gay sex and public affection are illegal in Zimbabwe, with penalties of up to three years in jail. Same-sex marriage is also illegal, as entrenched in the country’s Constitution.