LGBT rights in Zimbabwe

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LGBT rights in Zimbabwe
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal
Gender identity/expression -

LGBT rights in Zimbabwe are dominated by the fact that male homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, under laws which date to the Rhodesian and British colonial eras, and, since 1995, the government has carried out campaigns against homosexuality in both men and women.

Laws against homosexuality

Common law prohibitions include sodomy defined as the "unlawful and intentional sexual relations per anum between two human males." Unnatural offences is defined as the unlawful and intentional commission of an unnatural sexual act by one person with another person. Section 11 of The Censorship and Entertainments Control Act has also been used to harass gay people in Zimbabwe. This provides that no person shall import, print, publish, distribute, or keep for sale any publication which is undesirable. A publication is considered undesirable if it is "indecent or obscene or is offensive or harmful to public morals or is likely to be contrary to public health."[1]

Laws passed in 2006 make any actions perceived as homosexual a criminal offense. The Zimbabwean government has made it a criminal offense for two people of the same sex to hold hands, hug, or kiss. The "sexual deviancy" law is one of 15 additions to Zimbabwe's Criminal Code quietly passed in Parliament. The sections involving gays and lesbians are part of an overhaul of the country' sodomy laws. Before then, laws against sodomy were limited to sexual activity. The revised law now states that sodomy is any "act involving contact between two males that would be regarded by a reasonable person as an indecent act."[2]

2002 asylum attempt

In 1998, William Kimumwe, facing sodomy charges, fled Zimbabwe for Kenya. In 2002, he arrived in the United States seeking asylum, which was denied by an immigration judge. In 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in the state of Missouri upheld the immigration judge's decision. A two-judge majority believed Kimumwe's experiences in Zimbabwe were the result of his actions, not his sexual orientation.[3][4]

Mugabe administration

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe since 1987, has actively carried out actions against LGBT people and spoken out in public against homosexuality.

Mugabe received worldwide criticism for comments he made on 1 August 1995, after coming across a stall set up by the Association of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) at the country's annual International Book Fair in Harare. GALZ, founded in 1989 to facilitate communication within the gay community,[5][6] had not received much attention from the government beforehand. Mugabe's comments after seeing the stall at the book fair were:

“ "I find it extremely outrageous and repugnant to my human conscience that such immoral and repulsive organizations, like those of homosexuals, who offend both against the law of nature and the morals of religious beliefs espoused by our society, should have any advocates in our midst and elsewhere in the world." ”

Two weeks later during Zimbabwe's annual independence celebrations Mugabe proclaimed:

“ "It degrades human dignity. It's unnatural, and there is no question ever of allowing these people to behave worse than dogs and pigs. If dogs and pigs do not do it, why must human beings? We have our own culture, and we must re-dedicate ourselves to our traditional values that make us human beings. … What we are being persuaded to accept is sub-animal behavior and we will never allow it here. If you see people parading themselves as Lesbians and Gays, arrest them and hand them over to the police!"[7] ”

Since then, President Mugabe has increased the political repression of homosexuals under Zimbabwe's sodomy law. Mugabe has blamed gays for many of Zimbabwe's problems, and views homosexuality as an "un-African" and immoral culture brought by colonists and practiced by only "a few whites" in his country.[8] During his 82nd birthday celebrations, Mugabe told supporters to "leave whites to do that."[9] Mugabe has informed journalists, most of whom work for state-owned institutions, to report negatively on gay relationships. Some critics believe that Mugabe's anti-gay campaign is meant to deflect attention from Zimbabwe's economic problems by using gays as a scapegoat.[10]

GALZ has been the target of infiltration by government spies and extortion attempts by both strangers and casual acquaintances. Homosexuals have been repeatedly bribed, detained, beaten and sometimes raped by the authorities.[11] The Central Intelligence Organisation has reportedly been used to beat and arrest homosexuals.[12]

In 1996, former President Canaan Banana was arrested based on accusations made during the murder trial of his former bodyguard, Jefta Dube. Banana was found guilty of eleven charges of sodomy, attempted sodomy and indecent assault in 1998. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, defrocked, and served 6 months in an open prison.

In 1999, British gay rights activists, led by Peter Tatchell, attempted a citizen's arrest of Mugabe for the crime of torture.[13] In 2001, Tatchell again tried to arrest the president in Brussels but was beaten unconscious by Mugabe's security guards.[14][15]

Living conditions

Homosexuality is highly taboo in the socially conservative country and Mugabe's anti-gay stance resonates with many Zimbabweans.[16] Gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe are threatened by violence and suicide attempts are common among the gay community.[17] A few nightclubs in urban areas such as Harare and Bulawayo are tolerant of gay customers.[18] Gay prostitution is known to be solicited in some Harare clubs.[19]

In some Shona tribes, there is a belief that a man having sex with another man, particularly a younger one, can bring good fortune to the senior partner.[20]


HIV and AIDS has plagued the population of Zimbabwe, and many cannot afford antiretroviral drugs. At present, GALZ is one of the few lobby groups in Zimbabwe that has a treatment plan up and running for people with AIDS. The association intends to have all its registered members take an HIV test. It also distributes posters warning people about the ways in which gays are vulnerable to AIDS.[21]

See also


External links


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