President Mugabe (Pic: Jeremy Lock)

Zimbabwean LGBTI activists have responded to President Robert Mugabe’s recent anti-gay rant against European countries.

The notoriously homophobic Mugabe slammed Europe’s “gay filth” for imposing sanctions on his country. “If they want to call their country British Gaydom, it’s up to them. That’s not our culture. We condemn that filth,” he said.

Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) issued a statement, titled “Mr. President, Homophobia is what’s UnAfrican”, in response to the comments.

The group noted that Mugabe’s remarks are “nothing new” and “only serve to reinforce our call for constitutional protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex people that has been met with state sponsored homophobia of alarming levels.”

The organisation said that it is time for the Zimbabwean government to implement measures which encourage a culture of human rights protection.

GALZ added that “activists in Zimbabwe are not puppets of foreign forces, as government would have everyone believe…

“The President needs to provide leadership in overcoming Zimbabwe’s challenges in areas such as violence, unemployment, education and health rather than fostering antipathy and intolerance,” it said.

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. LGBT people and activists are routinely harassed by officials and police.

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

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