President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe’s gay rights group has written a letter to President Robert Mugabe calling on him to ensure that gays and lesbians are protected from violence, discrimination and hate.
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) sent the letter to the historically homophobic Mugabe (89) in reaction to his Independence Day speech, marking 33 years of independence, last Thursday.
In the speech, the president urged Zimbabweans to “strive at all times for peace, respect, and goodwill towards one another and to work for the unity and development of our country and people” ahead of new elections following the recent adoption of a new constitution.
“I urge our people to replicate the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere that characterised our Referendum and thus shun all forms of hate and violence,” Mugabe said.
In its letter, GALZ urged Mugabe and all Zimbabweans to extend this goodwill and protection under the law to the LGBT community.
While Zimbabwe’s new constitution expressly bans same-sex marriage, the LGBT community is nevertheless hopeful that its other protections of civil liberties and human rights will for the first time include gay and lesbian people.
Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe. It remains to be seen if the courts will rule on whether this is now in conflict with the new constitution.
Mugabe has previously said that gay people are “worse than pigs and dogs” and that they “don’t have any human rights at all”.
Below is the full text of the GALZ letter to the president.
The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe
Hon Robert G. Mugabe
We write to congratulate you on Zimbabwe’s attainment of 33 years of Independence. We salute the brave men and women that sacrificed their lives to bring about Independence and freedom for all.
We wish to thank you for your continued plea for peace in this country. We watched and listened to your Independence Day message, in which your spoke on the need for the country’s citizens and political leadership to shun violence and hate before, during and after elections.
We represent a community that historically has been vilified, abused and dehumanised solely on the basis of an irrelevant personal characteristic. As a result our community lives in fear of violence and abuse because they have witnessed abuse or encountered violent homophobic slurs, physical violence and harassment.
We are encouraged by your call to the police to arrest perpetrators of violence and we hope that the police will carry out their duties diligently and professionally. We believe that the criminal justice system will not be used to target or harass our community and others working to defend equality and human rights for all.
We hope that the system will understand that no group of people or individual is less deserving and worthy of equal protection of the law. The moment we say this, all minorities and all of society will undoubtedly be demeaned. This will in turn embarrass us as a nation.
We hope that Zimbabweans will respect your call to shun and condemn all forms of violence discrimination and hate including that which relates to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
We thank you