In the past decade, authorities have intensified attacks against members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe members’ intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and beatings. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been at the forefront of the anti-gay harassment, repeatedly using his office to insult and degrade gay and lesbian Zimbabweans. He has vowed not to allow the inclusion of LGBT rights in Zimbabwe’s new constitution, which is currently being drafted.
In May 2010, police arrested two GALZ staff members on charges including "insulting the president," after the group displayed a letter from the mayor of San Francisco criticizing President Mugabe for being homophobic. Police assaulted the two and detained them for six days, pressing them to provide a list of GALZ members.
In July 2012, police summoned the GALZ director, Chesterfield Samba confirming that they were continuing to pursue the charge for "insulting the president" because the letter is still on display. Under section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, it is an offense to insult the president or bring the office of the president into disrepute. Police stated that they would prosecute the GALZ director for displaying the letter unless GALZ volunteered the name of another member who would take liability for this action.
Police again raided the GALZ office on 11 August 2012 during the launch of the GALZ Violations Report and Briefing on the Second Draft Zimbabwe Constitution. 44 GALZ members who were present were detained for a night, questioned, and personal details recorded before they were released without charge.
On August 20, 2012, police officers entered and occupied the offices of GALZ in Harare for six hours, producing a warrant only after the GALZ lawyers demanded it. They confiscated documents, advocacy materials, and computers.
Following her official visit to Zimbabwe in May 2012, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, said “there can be no justification for violence, harassment or stigmatization” against LGBT people. Pan Africa ILGA urges the government to seriously heed the recommendations outlined by High Commissioner Pillay.
We reiterate the words of Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Audrey Gaughran who said, “While significantly hampering the work of human rights defenders, these acts of harassment and intimidation by police contribute to a climate of discrimination, harassment and fear for individuals who may be targeted for violence on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The principle of human dignity and non-discrimination are protected in the country’s Constitution. Further, these are also in national and international agreements to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, therefore there can be no justification for such harassment or persecution.
Pan Africa ILGA urges the Government to pay particular attention to and prioritize the protection of minority groups from violence and discrimination by developing favourable legal structure. Improvements in information and communication are also necessary and will create opportunities to engage Zimbabwean society on human rights issues.
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