Zimbabwe warns against gay rights protests during AIDS conference

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Zimbabwe’s health minister has warned activists not to protest for LGBT rights during an AIDS conference.

The country is set to host the biennial International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa, from November 29 to December 4.

The conference is likely to be a source of tension, after President Mugabe gave a bizarre speech to the United Nations in which he ranted about gay rights before shouting “we are not gays!”

Homosexuality is not against the law in the country, but LGBT people often face harsh government clampdowns – with Mugabe claiming homosexuality is a filthy disease, and claiming Zimbabwe would “never, never, never” support homosexuality.

The country’s health minister David Parirenyatw sought to address the tension ahead of the conference.

According to AllAfrica he warned gay rights groups not to hold demonstrations, but added: “As we are hosting this (conference), we must embrace all key populations. We will ensure that everybody is nicely catered for.”

In his speech to the UN last month, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe delivered a thinly-veiled diatribe against the US and gay rights, ranting about “the self-anointed prefects of our time”.

He said: “We equally reject attempts to prescribe new rights that are contrary to our values, our norms, traditions and beliefs”, before shouting “We are not gays!”, and drawing nervous laughter.