President Robert Mugabe (Pic: Kremlin.ru)
The Zimbabwe government has rejected recommendations to decriminalise homosexuality, claiming that the West tried to force it to accept same-sex marriage.
The country’s media reported this week that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that Zimbabwe had “shot down” recommendations “on homosexuality” by European members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, but had accepted 142 other recommendations.
“With regards to areas that we felt we would not accept, it is issues of gays and homosexuality, which is unlawful in our country,” Mnangagwa told The Herald.
“We rejected all those. There are a few countries from Europe which recommended that we re-consider our position with regard to adults of same sex marrying each other. That we have rejected.”
The newspaper and Mnangagwa painted the demands for basic LGBT human rights as an ideological struggle between the West and Africa and its traditional values.
Activists have, however, called out the assertion by the government that it was being pressured to accept same-sex marriage; one of the most controversial elements of LGBT equality. Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) claim that the Human Rights Council’s reports and statements “prove that NO Marriage recommendation was made”.
The group added: “The recommendations were clear; address violence, stigma and discrimination NOT marriage.” GALZ went on to ask, “Why the spin?”
Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution expressly bans same-sex marriage but does otherwise provide protections of civil liberties and human rights. Nevertheless, laws criminalising homosexuality, with penalties of up to three years in jail, remain on the statute books and have yet to be challenged in court as unconstitutional.
Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe, who has ruled the country for almost 40 years, is a vocal opponent of the LGBTI community and believes that homosexuality is un-African and a Western phenomenon. He has stated that gay people are “worse than pigs and dogs” and that they “don’t have any human rights at all”.