Zimbabwe Gay Group Wins International Award
News, January 28, 2005
By staff writer
The grassroots gay and lesbian association in Zimbabwe,
GALZ, is awarded international recognition for their human rights
accomplishments. Despite arrests and intimidation, GALZ had made a great
effort to promote the rights of Zimbabwe’s gay and lesbian community,
according to the award.
The group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) is to be
honoured with this year’s International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission’s (IGLHRC) Felipa de Souza Award. The IGLHRC announced this after
a New York meeting today.
The Felipa Award recognises “the courage and impact of
grassroots groups and leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other individuals stigmatised and
abused because of their sexuality.” Now in its tenth year, the award carries
with it a US$ 5,000 stipend to assist and strengthen the ability of grassroots
human rights groups to do their work.
“GALZ has been a creative and fearless human rights
leader not just in Zimbabwe but throughout Africa and for all of us who share
the struggle for social justice and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people,” said Paula Ettelbrick, the executive director of
IGLHRC. “At a time in which democracy and governmental respect for human
rights are closing down even more forcefully in Zimbabwe, GALZ continues to
provide life-saving services and programmes,” she added.
Formed in 1990, GALZ was the first organisation in the
country to provide services to and push for the human rights of the gay and
lesbian community in Zimbabwe. GALZ was also one of the first organisations in
Zimbabwe to provide counselling services and HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns at
a time when the Zimbabwean government was in denial of the disease’s
Despite arrests and intimidation, GALZ made a submission
to the government-led Constitutional Commission in 1999 for the inclusion of a
sexual orientation clause in a new national constitution. Ultimately the words
“sexual orientation” were not included, but through GALZ’s efforts, the
phrase “natural difference or condition” was included and widely
interpreted to include sexual minorities.
With what the IGLHRC called “the closing of democratic
space, the worsening political and economic situation, and the HIV/AIDS crisis
in Zimbabwe,” GALZ had turned its attention away from direct legislative
lobbying in 2000 and focused its efforts on upgrading social services,
including providing training in activism as well as in HIV/AIDS care and
prevention to both local and pan-Africa organisations and activists.
Today, GALZ provides these kinds of services as well as
offering its members professional and educational training and legal
“We are honoured to receive the 2005 Felipa Award,”
said Fadzai Muparutsa, programme manager for gender at GALZ. “Our work to
improve the lives of sexual minorities in Zimbabwe is extremely challenging
but critically important,” Ms Muparutsa continued. “This recognition from
the IGLHRC will boost our resolve in the face of adversity and is a wonderful
gesture of solidarity from the international community.”
GALZ continues to work within a climate of impunity,
according to IGLHRC. Zimbabwean President Mugabe has consistently iterated
that homosexuality is “un-African” and that gays and lesbians are “worse
than dogs and pigs.” GALZ has been banned from both radio and television
With the passage of the Public Order and Security Act in
2000, which strictly controls the holding of public meetings, GALZ members
have been arrested on at least two occasions. Most recently, the Mugabe
government is attempting to pass a new law that bans any foreign
non-governmental organisation from registering in Zimbabwe if the group’s
principle objective is political advocacy, such as human rights work.
Similarly, Zimbabwean organisations working on such
issues would be barred from receiving “any foreign funding or donation.”
While GALZ is not affected because it only provides services to its members
and thus has classified itself as a “social club”, the new legislation
will place serious restrictions on GALZ’s freedom to speak out on issues of
good governance and human rights.
The Award embodies the spirit and story of Felipa de
Souza, who endured persecution and brutality after proudly declaring her
intimacy with a woman during a 16th century inquisition trial in Brazil.
Previous African Felipa Award winners include: Simon Tseko Nikoli, the famed
activist from South Africa and Maher Sabry, the Egyptian activist who notified
IGLHRC of the arrests of the Cairo 52.
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