Zimbabwe: Campaigners mark country’s independence with call for LGBT rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

With Zimbabwe marking 33 years of independence, campaigners are using the anniversary to remind people that the country is still a long way from securing basic rights for its LGBT citizens.

Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said in a statement: “We remain on course in our quest to achieving equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities.”

The group added: “We are concerned that the state continues to vilify our kind and actively violates and harasses our kin. As a result our community lives in fear of violence and abuse because they have witnessed abuse or encountered violent homophobic slurs. The law facilitates harassment of LGBTI individuals because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Zimbabwe achieved de jure sovereignty from the United Kingdom in April 1980, following 14 years as an unrecognised state under the conservative white minority government of Rhodesia, which unilaterally declared independence in 1965.

Along with most African countries homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, based on remnants of sodomy laws introduced during the British colonial era.

Robert Mugabe, president since 1987, has been a staunch promoter of homophobic persecution.

Mugabe previously referred to gay people as being “worse than dogs and pigs,” and has repeatedly been accused of inciting homophobic hatred against LGBT Zimbabweans.

He marked his 88th birthday party in February 2012 by urging gay people to go to “hell” in a public speech.

In March, Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, was criticised by gay rights campaigners in the country for denouncing homosexuality and reportedly saying marriage “should be between a man and a woman.”