Zimbabwe: gay rights

IssueMarch 2008
Feature by Keith Goddard, Jess Orlik

PN How does GALZ struggle for equal rights for LGBT people in Zimbabwe?

KG Recently, with the introduction of repressive legislation coupled with rising poverty and unemployment, GALZ has concentrated on assisting its members and embedding itself in the broader human rights movement in Zimbabwe.

We have various services for members: the Women's Scholarship Programmes; Skills for Life, providing vocational training for our members; and Positive Image, an access-to-affordable-treatment fund for members living with HIV or AIDS.

As to embedding LGBT people in society, GALZ has been very successful in integrating itself within the HIV/AIDS network, and is a member of all the major human rights coalitions.

Nevertheless, there is still a tendency to marginalise LGBT issues in human rights discourse - for fear of the state.

To counter this, GALZ has a new programme called “Changing Faces”. In 2005, for example, we published a booklet called Understanding Human Sexuality and Gender, aimed at NGOs. Without presuming heterosexuality as the norm, it outlines the principles of sexual rights.

PN What is GALZ's attitude towards nonviolence?

KG Nonviolence is a core value for GALZ and the organisation speaks out about physical, emotional and psychological violence. GALZ does not support the idea of violence to bring about political change in Zimbabwe, believing that movements born of violence tend to perpetuate violence.

PN How does the wider political struggle in Zimbabwe affect GALZ?

KG GALZ is not party-political and reserves the right to criticise any party on its policies regarding gender and sexuality.

We are an active member in a number of coalitions pushing for positive change.

One of the difficulties we face is that the government tends to use our issue as a red herring to mask the real issue of poor governance.

We also have to consider that most of the problems facing LGB are the same as those facing very many other Zimbabweans who are seen as enemies of the state or are caught in the downward spiral towards economic collapse

PN How is GALZ treated by the government?

KG GALZ has no voice in the government-controlled media which spews out anti-gay propaganda and homophobic hate speech.

The police have frequently interfered with or stopped our public meetings under the Public Order and Security Act.

GALZ finally managed to have its own stand at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in 2003. In 2005 and 2006, though, unidentified smartly-dressed men chased GALZ members from our stand.

The police stood by and did nothing.

PN How can people outside Zimbabwe support your organisation?

KG Although funding and donations are always welcome, concentrating on talking about the positive successes of GALZ is more helpful than painting us the helpless victim.

Topics: Global south, LGBTQ+