Miss Jacaranda contestants (Pic: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
In the wake of President Robert Mugabe’s promise to crack down on gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe after he was re-elected, a low key ZimPride week was recently held in Harare.
Organised by Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), the week included a cocktail party, discussions with a lawyer on LGBT rights under the law, a screening of the film Milk and the launch of the book Out in Zimbabwe: Narratives of Zimbabwean LGBTI Youth.
The week concluded with the highly anticipated Miss Jacaranda drag pageant and party, which around 300 people attended.
According to GALZ Director Chesterfield Samba, the winner of the pageant, Ezmerald Kim Kardashian, took home about R700 in prize money and “a strong sense of belonging and community spirit”.
ZimPride, Samba told Mambaonline, was held at a time when GALZ “has borne the brunt of hate speech, harassment and intimidation mainly by State authorities,” particularly in the run up to recent elections.
On the campaign trail, Mugabe repeatedly threatened to make life more difficult for LGBT Zimbabweans including increasing the penalties for homosexuality.
“GALZ felt it was imperative to rally the community together and partake in activities that bring the community together,” said Samba “Our main thrust was to create platforms for LGBTI people to express themselves after the difficult electoral period and we managed to provide such.”
To avoid any interference from the authorities, the Pride events were not widely publicised and were instead promoted through word of mouth and social media.
“Obviously issues of security were paramount hence a lot of care and thought went into advertising, and selection of venues,” explained Samba.
“The events were not open to members of the public but to GALZ members, partners, civil society and other agencies. We held all the events in public spaces in the city save for the last and bigger event which we had just 30km out of the city centre.”
Samba said that all the events were well supported and went ahead without incident. The only cause for concern was when a printing company refused to print a youth booklet and even involved the police.
“The matter was resolved as we believed nothing criminal or prurient was being produced. The printing company cited the owner’s Christian beliefs but, hey, we found another print house,” said Samba.
He added that GALZ was pleased that the community was able to take part in ZimPride “despite the uncertain environment that we are in” and that “we are already looking into ways of making it bigger next year”.
Under current laws, gay sex and members of the same sex holding hands, hugging or kissing are illegal in Zimbabwe, with penalties of up to three years in jail. Same sex marriage is also illegal under the country’s newly adopted constitution.