Last edited: December 05, 2004

Gays Seek Legal Recognition In Zimbabwe

Nando Media/Agence France-Press, October 24, 1999

HARARE – Homosexuals in Zimbabwe on Sunday called for the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. They sought the inclusion of a clause on sexual orientation in the African country's new constitution, which is now being drafted.

Representatives of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) made the appeal to a special session of a commission appointed by President Robert Mugabe to draft a new constitution to replace the British-authored one adopted at independence in 1980.

Homosexuality is a particularly controversial subject in Zimbabwe because Mugabe has frequently attacked gays as "beasts," "perverts" and "worse than dogs and pigs", saying homosexuality was un-African.

"I am asking for the ... inclusion of a sexual orientation clause in the new constitution. This is not a special right but just an acknowledgment of the existence of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in Zimbabwe," said Chesterfield Zamba, a gay.

Keith Goddard, program manager of GALZ, told some 400 government-appointed commissioners that homosexuals in the country lived in fear of discrimination, and that their constitutional recognition would guarantee they enjoyed the same rights and protection automatically accorded to heterosexuals.

The legal recognition of homosexuals would also help "combat homophobia and hate crimes" and "put an end to state prosecution and harassment."

"A sexual orientation clause in the new constitution does not mean the slippery slope down toward the acceptance of bestiality, or the sexual abuse of children (pedophilia), or sex in the streets or sex with dead bodies or rape," Goddard stressed.

"We are asking for the recognition of consensual same-sex relations between two consenting adults in private," he said. Sodomy is a crime in Zimbabwe, even between consenting adults, and carries a possible jail sentence.

Commissioners booed and tried to disrupt the speeches, until the chairman, Judge Godfrey Chidyausiku, intervened to restrain them, saying the gays had the right to be heard and be respected.

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