Despite Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s homophobic public comments, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) is spreading its wings.

The organisation, which pushes for social tolerance of sexual minorities and the repeal of homophobic legislation in Zimbabwe, has recently established a new centre for its Bulawayo members.

This came after the organisation realized that about half of its members from outside Harare were severely restricted from accessing GALZ services because of the travelling distance and cost, lack of accommodation and the ongoing shortage of fuel in the country.

GALZ director, Keith Goddard said that since the introduction of affinity groups in different areas in Zimbabwe in 2002, the organisation’s membership has grown significantly in other areas other than Harare, indicating a strong interest in gay and lesbian people organising at local level.

“We are definitely growing as more and more people are gaining courage and are comfortable about their sexual orientation in Zimbabwe.”

Asked how difficult it is to open gay centres in Zimbabwe while homosexuality is illegal Goddard said “Homosexuality is not illegal in Zimbabwe only sexual acts between same-sex partners are prohibited. We have rights to association, there are no laws prohibiting forming organisations and centres.”

Goddard pointed out that GALZ aims to be sensitive to individual needs. “That is why we have asked our members, especially women at Bulawayo, to tell us their needs. They need almost the same services offered by the GALZ head office such as counselling, HIV and Aids support legal advice and so forth.”

While GALZ is still looking for a coordinator to run the new centre, it is anticipated to start functioning at the beginning of July.

Nthateng Mhlambiso

Behind the Mask

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