LGBT advocates are examining a proposed new constitution for Zimbabwe with mixed feelings.
The first draft of the constitution, released last week, includes no mention of gay and lesbian rights, but it does state, “The principles of good governance, which bind all institutions of the State and government at all levels, include … recognition of the rights of racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious and political minorities.”
It also embraces:
- Fundamental human rights and freedoms;
- Cultural and traditional values;
- Recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of each human being;
- Recognition of the equality of all human beings;
- Gender equality.
It specifically limits marriage to men marrying women.
But it states, “Everyone has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as their nationality, race, colour, tribe, place or circumstances of birth, ethnic or social origin, language, class, religious belief, political or other opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, disability or economic, social or other status….”
Also, “Everyone living with a chronic illness has the right to have access to basic health-care services, provided or funded by the State, to treat the illness,” which should allow LGBT people to have access to AIDS/HIV services, even though though current Zimbabwe law categorizes them as criminals.
Under those laws, men who have sex with men in Zimbabwe can be imprisoned for up to one year.
The Zimbabwean Nehanda Radio news website noted that the proposed constitution would eliminate the position of prime minister and would not limit the powers of the president. It stated:
Circulated widely, the draft could fall short of expectations of Zimbabweans who had hoped it would trim presidential powers that have turned President Robert Mugabe into a demi-god.
The new constitution is expected to replace the current document cobbled at Lancaster House in London in December 1979 ending colonial rule in then-Rhodesia.
The present constitution has been amended 19 times, the last being in February 2009 to formally pave the way for the formation of the inclusive government that created the Prime Minister’s post for Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader.
It added, “The draft constitution prohibits gay marriage despite spirited attempts by the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz) to respect and uphold the rights of all citizens despite sexual orientation as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Mugabe opposes gay rights, but not all his backers do. In his Zanu PF political party, “elements have always wanted to have gay rights in the constitution,” Nehanda Radio said. “The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) which was crafted … to curtail media freedom, recognises gay rights. Mugabe was hoodwinked into signing it into law. “