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Zimbabwe activists are back in business

GALZ Violations Report 2011
GALZ report on human rights report in Zimbabwe in 2011

The battle continues to assure basic human rights for LGBT people in Zimbabwe despite government harassment.

The group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) reopened its Harare office last month.  The GALZ office had been closed after a police raid last August.

Based on an interview with a Zimbabwean LGBT activist, the Washington Blade reported that GALZ, which has close to 2,000 members across the country, also continues to host HIV/AIDS workshops in Bulawayo.

“When they raid our offices they think they are going to find pornographic materials,” the activist told the Blade. “When they come in there, they find it is a resource center. People are busy working.”

The Blade article reported:

A Zimbabwean LGBT rights advocate told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview in D.C. earlier this month he expects his country’s government to once again crack down on gay rights groups ahead of July’s presidential elections.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

“I am told President Robert Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, is going to use the issue of homosexuality as one of their campaign tools,” the activist, who asked the Blade not to publish his name because he remains afraid of potential reprisals against him, said. He added his brother and most other Zimbabweans who oppose Mugabe will ultimately vote for him because of his strong opposition to homosexuality. “I strongly believe that they will use this issue to threaten the LGBT people in Zimbabwe. And they will do everything in their power to make sure that LGBT people are punished.”

The activist, who is a member of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, which a group of gay white Zimbabweans founded in 1990 as a support organization, spoke to the Blade ahead of a scheduled March 16 referendum on a new constitution that includes an amendment that specifically bans same-sex marriage.

The State Department last August criticized the Zimbabwean government’s crackdown on LGBT rights activists after police arrested 44 GALZ members inside the group’s office in Harare, the country’s capital. The organization said authorities confiscated computers and pamphlets from the same office a few days earlier.

The activist said he received death threats after the Blade published a story on the State Department’s response to the raid. He fled to neighboring South Africa where he remained for more than a month.

“It was difficult because I was not doing what I was supposed to do when I was home,” he said. “So I went back.”

For more information, read the full article: “Zimbabwe gay activist visits D.C.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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