In the summer of 1995, the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) had to withdraw their exhibit at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. The President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, said that he found it "extremely outrageous and repugnant to my human conscience that such immoral and repulsive organizations ....should have any advocates in our midst."
The organizers of the state-funded Book Fair were forced to withdraw their earlier permission for GALZ to have a stand at the Fair. State police visited the Fair and removed posters protesting GALZ's exclusion. Human rights groups protested the exclusion, which violates Zimbabwe's Declaration of Rights, which guarantees "freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference."
During a visit with other African leaders to the Netherlands in November, the Dutch group Strange Fruit and other black and migrant lesbian and gay groups protested Mugabe's anti-gay remarks. The Dutch government is reported to have challenged Mugabe's anti-homosexual remarks.
The anti-homosexual 'debate' has continued in the Zimbabwean Parliament over the last few months. On 28 September, 1995, Member of Parliament Mutyambiz said, "I would like to call for all traditional forces in this country to rally behind the State President in the eradication of homosexualism. I feel that all those who know homos in this country should make them be brought before the courts of law and be tried for their evil activity." In another such debate in November, MP Chief Makoni suggested that caning and flogging should be introduced as punishment for both male and female homosexuality. Under the Zimbabwe penal code, male homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by a fine.
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) is requesting that foreign governments continue to express their grave concern about this denial of lesbian and gays' human rights. Send letters to your foreign ministry requesting that they contact the Zimbabwean authorities. Letters should state that:
- Remarks such as those made by President Mugabe and various members of Parliament encourage the human rights violations to which sexual minorities are subject around the world.
- The international community has a responsibility to speak out against statements of intent to persecute a minority group. Continued pressure is needed to ensure that state harassment of gays and lesbians ceases, and that the government of Zimbabwe does not further implement its discriminatory policies.
Please send copies of the letters to: H.E. Robert Mugabe, Private Bag 7700, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe and to The Zimbabwean Parliament, P.O. Box CY 298, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe.