Taurai Zhanje

Zimbabwe’s leading LGBT rights group has hailed the historic entry of a Zimbabwean man in the upcoming Mr. Gay World contest.

On Friday, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) congratulated Taurai Zhanje for choosing to take part in the event.

“Being one of only four African contestants and the first from Zimbabwe is a historical feat that we are extremely proud of,” commented the organisation in a statement.

South Africa had previously been the only African country to have taken part in the event, winning the title in 2010 and 2011.

“With the intense climate of homophobia existing in Zimbabwe and the restrictive legislation that makes it difficult for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to be open about their sexuality and to use public space in safety, Taurai has exhibited immense courage and boldness by entering the Mr. Gay World contest,” said GALZ.

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.

“We salute your bravery and hope that your participation will inspire us all to come out and celebrate our lives despite the very difficult circumstances we live in,” said the group.

“Zimbabwe has institutionalised homophobia making it difficult for the LGBTI community to lead positive lives hence we are ecstatic about your participation as it demonstrates the resilient character Zimbabweans generally exhibit in overcoming challenge.

“Taurai naturally becomes our ambassador and role model for the Zimbabwean Gay Community,” added GALZ.

The organisation concluded by wishing him all the best in the competition, asserting that “the Zimbabwean LGBTI Community is rallying behind you”.

The 27-year-old Taurai works for a marketing company and writes and produces music as a hobby. He says that he chose to enter Mr. Gay World as “it would be an honour to represent Zimbabwe on an LGBT platform worldwide partly because it is a true reflection of this minority group in my country which is still marginalised”.

He will be joining Robel Gizaw Hailu from Ethiopia, Wendelinus Hamutenya from Namibia and Lance Weyer from South Africa as the African delegates at the 2012 Mr. Gay World competition which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 4 to 8 April.

News that four African contestants are taking part in Mr. Gay World has unleashed a torrent of anti-gay sentiment on Mambaonline.

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