The arrest of 20 school girls from Eveline High School is one of the most shameful human rights violations against children and the Zimbabwean lesbian and gay community according to Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) an LGBTI human rights organization.
This, after the students aged between 14 and 16 were picked up by Zimbabwean police, taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station and questioned from 8am to 4pm following allegations that they were lesbians.
13 of the students are soccer players belonging to Carlton Football Club which is a team of young female soccer players from various schools in Bulawayo.
The questioning has disrupted the pupils’ education according to GALZ.
“Every child has a right to education regardless of their sexual orientation and every Zimbabwean has a right to sexual orientation as this is enshrined in the Right to Information and Privacy Act”, GALZ said in a statement.
It is alleged that the incident came to light during a tournament at Nswazi in Umzingwane District when one girl reported that some of the team members were lesbians.
The school authorities then caught wind of the story and made follow ups with this girl and tasked her to write a statement on the allegations, she did and brought out more names of other students whom she claimed were lesbians and even paired them up.
This incident has since prompted the Bulawayo Provincial education director Dan Moyo to openly condemn homosexuality as a practice that is unacceptable.
During a southern region schools debate competition held at the school, Moyo said “I do not accept such behavior it is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, The Carlton Sports Club President Theresa Ndlovu expressed concern over the issue.
“The social lives of these girls should be respected. We don’t make it a habit to interfere with our players’ social lives as long as it does not affect their performance in sport or their studies”, she said.
The right to education
Commenting of the arrest GALZ Health Programmes Manager and Therapist Samuel Matsikure castigated the move as discriminatory and unnecessary.
“This issue is not about sexual orientation, it is about the right to education. If children spend nine hours in a police station being interrogated this is likely to have psychological impact.”
He added, “These girls will be a subject of ridicule and stigma after being exposed by the school, victimized by police and will be humiliated by other students. Also if other young students of a different sexual orientation hear of such cases they will be traumatized and will be reluctant to come out.
“What should be done is for the relevant authorities to ensure that there is counseling space for students so they can get psycho social support and therapy in dealing with their sexual orientation as they are still at puberty stage”, Matsikure explained.
As the issue is being treated with the strictest confidence by both the school and the police, the fate of these students remains to be seen.