GALZ employee Ellen Chademana was found not guilty

LGBT activists in Zimbabwe say that lesbian and gay people are once again being harassed and intimidated by law enforcement agents and community leaders.

In a statement, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) revealed that a number of its members have recently been subjected to “arbitrary detentions, harassment and intimidation”.

According to the group, on 23rd March, law enforcement agents stormed the house of a male GALZ member who was in the company of four male friends. The law enforcement agents conducted a search of the premises, allegedly without a search warrant.

After the search, officers took the names of all present and detained them. The men were taken to a police station and charged with disorderly conduct.

While at the station, police allegedly abused and ridiculed the five. They were fined US$10 with an extra alleged charge of US$30 for the officer to give them a receipt for payment of the fines.

In another incident, GALZ said that on 25th March, law enforcement agents detained two female members of GALZ after they were taken to a police station by relatives on allegations of practising homosexuality. The two members were interrogated separately and allegedly threatened with arrest if they denied the charges.

Police officers seized the women’s mobile phones and called people in their contacts list to ascertain the nature of their relationship. While at the station, the women were allegedly verbally abused and had photographs taken by law enforcement agents who threatened to send the photographs to a local tabloid.

On the same day, two other female members of GALZ were reportedly threatened by a local ward councillor who alleged that they are lesbians.

The organisation said that it has referred the cases to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

In May last year, police conducted a raid on the Harare offices of GALZ. Two staff members, Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi, were arrested on charges of possessing pornographic pictures. After undergoing separate trials, both were eventually acquitted of all charges.

Gay sex – along with members of the same sex holding hands, hugging, or kissing – is illegal in Zimbabwe with penalties of up to three years in jail.

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