Intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and beatings are hideously commonplace for LGBT people in Zimbabwe.
Behind these conditions stands President Robert Mugabe, now in his 34th year as leader of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF).
He continues to spearhead attacks on the rights of LGBT Zimbabweans. Any obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the rights to non-discrimination, liberty and security, privacy, freedom of expression and thought, and association and peaceful assembly have always been ignored.
Zimbabwe is a very socially conservative country where homosexuality is a big taboo. Mugabe’s anti-gay stance resonates with many Zimbabweans, and he uses his hate-speech as a purposeful distraction to divert attention from the political corruption, economic mismanagement, high unemployment, and human rights infringements of his government.
Mugabe frequently conflates homosexuality with zoophilia, and has told the West to “keep their sodomy, bestiality, stupid and foolish ways to themselves, out of Zimbabwe”. His use of animal analogies is without bounds and he has described gay people as “worse than pigs and dogs, goats and birds”.
Mugabe ran his 2013 election campaign on the platform that if his ZANU-PF party won, he would assure “hell for gays” and behead LGBT people. And throughout the 2013 election campaign he pledged he would introduce laws that would imprison LGBT people for life.
The impact is of this unrestrained homophobia is incalculable on Zimbabwe’s LGBT community, who live in constant fear of intimidation, arbitrary arrests and beatings from Zimbabwean authorities and police.
Celebrating his 90th birthday at a rally in Harare last week, Mugabe told a crowd of thousands “The Europe of yesterday is gone, we have a Europe of today which has no principles at all”... “let Europe keep their homosexual nonsense there and not cross over with it here”.
Forty-one out of fifty-three countries of the Commonwealth of Nations still criminalise homosexuality and other forms of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. A 2013 study, commissioned by the Kaleidoscope Trust, found that nearly eighty percent of Commonwealth countries are enforcing anti-gay laws perpetuated by leaders who are “willfully turning a blind eye to homophobia on a massive scale”.
That’s something to remember when the Commonwealth Games are held in Glasgow this summer.
The majority of Commonwealth countries retained homophobic laws following independence.
The homophobic stain of British Empire that continues to ruin the lives of so many LGBT people across the world must be eradicated once and for all, and now!