The President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, affirmed his government’s opposition to LGBT rights in a speech which told European leaders to “keep their homosexual nonsense.
Mugabe, who assumed office in 1987 and has maintained a tight control as President and leader of the country’s ruling Zanu-PF party, delivered the speech to thousands of supporters at a rally in Harare’s National Sports Stadium.
“Europe is full of lies,” he told the crowd. “Europe of yesterday is gone that Europe of today has no principles.” In 2002, the European Union imposed restrictive measures on Zimbabwe, including a freeze on the assets of selective members of the Government of Zimbabwe and individuals associated with them. The sanctions were a response to the humerous human rights abuses and violations of democracy under Mugabe’s rule, though these sanctions have been eased in recent years. In February, the EU relaxed sanctions on eight members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite, but maintained its most restrictive policies for the 90-year-old Mugabe and his wife. Mugabe acknowledged this in his speech, telling his supporters that “Europe will never ever accept a Zanu-PF government.”
He also used his pulpit to further demonize gay rights in Africa. “Let Europe keep their homosexual nonsense there and live with it,” he said. “We will never have it here. [Homosexuality] is not humane.” He also threatened any foreign diplomats who dared to raise the issue of LGBT acceptance in Zimbabwe. “Any diplomat who talks about homosexuality will be kicked out. There is no excuse and we won’t listen to them.”
Zimbabwe’s original sodomy law criminalized same-sex activity between men, defined as “unlawful and intentional sexual relations per anum between two human males”. In 2006, the law was further strengthened to criminalize any actions perceived as being homosexual. It is illegal for anyone in the country to hold hands, hug or kiss a person of the same gender, while the sodomy law was revised to classify sodomy as any “act involving contact between two males that would be regarded by a reasonable person as an indecent act”.
In 1995, after finding a stall for the Associaton of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) at the International Book Fair in Harare, President Mugabe caused controversy for remarks he later made. “I find it extremely outrageous and repugnant to my human conscience that such immoral and repulsive organizations, like those of homosexuals, who offend both against the law of nature and the morals of religious beliefs espoused by our society, should have any advocates in our midst and elsewhere in the world.” A fortnight later, during Zimbabwe’s independence celebrations, he proclaimed homosexuality “degrades human dignity. It’s unnatural, and there is no question ever of allowing these people to behave worse than dogs and pigs.”
First posted on Metroweekly