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Zimbabwe : A Proposal to Decriminalise Homosexuality

in ZIMBABWE,

A consultant to Zimbabwe's National AIDS Council (NAC) has recommended a review of the Sexual Offenses Act with the goal of decriminalising homosexuality.

Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said the criminalisation of homosexuality and the prevailing homophobic climate was driving most gay people underground making it difficult to seek out HIV prevention and treatment services. The consultant to NAC called for a "pragmatic" approach to stop the pandemic.

A consultant hired by the National Aids Council (NAC) to review Zimbabwe’s response to the Aids pandemic has recommended a review of the Sexual Offences Act to deal with “homosexuality and prostitution in a pragmatic way.”

The law in its present form criminalises homosexuality and prostitution.

Zimbabwe, which is predominantly Christian, also considers both practices alien.

But the study carried out by the consultant who cannot be named for professional reasons encourages Zimbabweans to be open-minded about homosexuality and other sexual practices if the pandemic, killing thousands of people every week, is to be brought under control...

Men having sex with other men (MSM) have been singled out along commercial sex workers as some of the most vulnerable groups in HIV transmission in Zimbabwe...

Tapuwa Magure, the NAC CEO said the organisation was yet to consider the recommendations and come up of with a position, especially on the controversial issues such as placing condoms in schools and homosexuality.

“We hired a consultant who made those recommendations but we have not yet sat down to go through them as an organisation so we currently do not have a position regarding them,” he said...

The country’s HIV prevalence rate in adults currently stands at 13,1% and is considered to be among the highest in the world...

Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said the criminalisation of homosexuality and the prevailing homophobic climate was driving most gay people underground.

“Service providers such as doctors and nurses also tend to develop negative attitudes when dealing with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gendered) people as a result of lack of information,” GALZ said.

“In terms of HIV prevention this is serious, particularly as GALZ is the only organisation in Zimbabwe providing services specifically to the lesbian and gay community; and very few other HIV/Aids organisations even consider MSM/ women having sex with women (WSW) in their intervention work.”...

GALZ said while HIV/Aids issues were being “heterosexualised” in Zimbabwe, minority groups were even more at risk of contracting HIV through anal sex and some MSM had female partners thus, expanding the HIV network.

“The right to health should be accorded to everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender, sex or creed,” GALZ said in response to the recommendations by the NAC consultant.

“Decriminalising consensual same sex practise will reduce fear, stigma and discrimination as it has to be accompanied by education, trainings and sensitisation of all stakeholders including the police.

The advice offered to the National AIDS Council (NAC) is very much in keeping with the new guidelines on HIV programming for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender persons released by the World Health Organisation. It also correlates with the The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding policy guidelines that call for measures to be put in place to address human rights, legal barriers and homophobia in HIV response. PEPFAR is a major contributor of funds to the fight against HIV in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya receives $510 million).
 

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