Robert Mugabe (Pic: Jeremy Lock)
The LGBT community in Zimbabwe is demanding to be protected in the country’s new constitution, which is currently being drafted. This would be along the same lines as the sexual orientation clause included in neighbouring South Africa’s bill of rights.
The Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said in a statement issued to the Zimbabwe Times:
“The purpose of a Constitution is to protect vulnerable and marginalised minorities. Most gay and lesbian people in Zimbabwe live in fear and are driven underground. This is blatant discrimination against a group of people whose only difference from the majority is in who they are attracted to sexually.”
“And homosexuals do not choose to be homosexual just as heterosexuals do not choose to be heterosexual. Choosing to be gay or lesbian in Zimbabwe would be lunacy given the levels of disapproval shown by many elements of society.”
While homosexuality is not technically illegal in Zimbabwe, sodomy, which is defined as anal sex between men, is. The country’s Sodomy and Unnatural Offences laws date to the Rhodesian and British colonial eras.
President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country for almost 30 years, has previously described homosexuality as an “abomination” and gays as being “lower than pigs and dogs,” adding that “I don’t believe they have any rights at all.”
The GALZ statement also highlights the discrimination of lesbians:
“Whilst sexual conduct between women is not criminalised in Zimbabwe, the mere fact that there is no specified protection for lesbians under our present constitution makes them equally vulnerable to discrimination as their male counterparts, perhaps even more so, given their status as women who are generally not recognised as having the right to their own sexuality.
“A democratic Constitution must incorporate various fundamental rights in order for it to be democratic and this includes the right to one’s sexual orientation whether this be homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual,” said GALZ.
Zimbabwe is being ruled by a new government, which includes previous political opponents, the MDC and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. In May last year, an MDC spokesperson gave hope to the county’s LGBT community by saying that, “Our vision is to build a Zimbabwe that has sufficient space and comfort for all”.