Gay and lesbian Zimbabweans push for constitutional equality

Gay and lesbian Zimbabweans push for constitutional equality

By staff writers
10 Aug 2009

Human rights campaigners in Zimbabwe believe they have a 50:50 chance of seeing the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people protected in the country's new constitution. This would overturn existing Zimbabwean law.

Sexual acts between men are currently prohibited in Zimbabwe. While sexual acts between women are not mentioned in law, all forms of homosexuality have been denounced by the country's president, Robert Mugabe.

However, it is thought that the Movement for Democratic Change, which now shares in government, may be willing to consider a major change as part of the country's current constitutional review.

“We live in hope,” said Keith Goddard, director of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), which has around 400 members.

He told Britain's Guardian newspaper that “we've probably got a 50:50 chance”. He hopes that the National Aids Council's recent call for the decriminalisation of homosexual practice will assist their campaign.

The influence of South African television on Zimbabweans is also thought to be helping to change attitudes. South Africa was the first country in the world to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in its constitution.

However, Goddard suggested that there was an atmosphere of “hysterical homophobia” in the country, due in part to Mugabe's rhetoric. He said that the network of people supported by GALZ includes many who are “very hidden and very scared”.

Mugabe has repeatedly attacked homosexuality as a Western import, although gay, lesbian and bisexual Africans are keen to disagree.

The gay Nigerian Christian activist, Davis Mac-Iyalla has insisted that “homosexuality has existed in Africa from the beginning”. He suggests that it was homophobia, not homosexuality, that was introduced into Africa by Western colonisers and missionaries.

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