A Zimbabwean man has been acquitted on charges of stabbing another man because his victim is gay and made sexual advances on him.
The Daily News reported that 22-year-old Bongani Phiri justified his attack because he was being “constantly being nagged and harassed by the complainant Walter Kwanele Ndlovu over a relationship.”
Phiri also claimed that Ndlovu “behaved like a gay” and had caressed him without consent.
Magistrate Sikhumbuzo Nyathi said that not only did the state fail to prove that he intended to murder the other man but also apparently accepted that the victim’s sexuality and advances were at least in part justification for the attack.
“In Zimbabwe, the issue of homosexuality is a controversial one to such extent that it has drawn into the fray, the highest office in the country. Some people are known to hold strong views on homosexuality,” he said.
The October 26, 2013 argument, in which Phiri accused Ndlovu of being gay, saw the victim being stabbed in the chest.
The so-called “gay panic” defence is a legal defence, usually against charges of assault or murder, in which the accused claims that the victim’s gay romantic or sexual advances caused him or her to go into a state of violent temporary insanity.
This homophobic argument has been used widely around the world, including in South Africa, in efforts to acquit or reduce sentences against attackers.
Gay sex and public affection are illegal in Zimbabwe, with penalties of up to three years in jail. Same-sex marriage is also illegal, as specified in the country’s recently adopted constitution.
Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, has openly slated gays and lesbians for years and recently promised to further crack down on the country’s gay rights group GALZ.