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Zimbabwe shuts, sues and persecutes gay association

Zimbabwe to sue the nation’s main LGBT association, GALZ, while its members face harassment and persecution
Zimbabwe shuts, sues and persecutes members of the country's main LGBT association - GALZ
GALZ

Zimbabwe announced that charges that will be brought against the association for running an ‘unregistered’ organization, and ‘undermining the authority of the President’.

Members of the association are continually being harassed and persecuted in an increasingly hostile climate to LGBT people in Zimbabwe.

GALZ has been informed that it now faces an additional charge of ‘undermining the authority of the President’.

Last month, detectives at the Law and Order section of Harare Central Police station have previously charged the co-chairperson of the Association of Gay and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) for running an ‘unregistered’ organization as outline by the country’s Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police Force (ZRP) advised GALZ that they would proceed by way of summons, so far the association has not been notified nor has it received summons.

The new charges of undermining the authority of the President apparently relate to an incident in July 2012, when police questioned the current co-chairperson on matter. The case dates back to May 2010 when two group members were arrested after they criticized Mugabe for being homophobic in a letter to the mayor of San Francisco.

During August 2012, the ZRP has carried out two raids on GALZ in less than two weeks, first on August 11 when riot police interrupted a launch event for GALZ's Violations Report, which documents police harassment, arbitrary arrests, and rights violations against the LGBT community.

44 GALZ members were detained by ‘visibly drunk’ police officers after being assaulted with ‘batons, sticks, and clenched fists.’

GALZ office was subsequently raided on August 20, during which authorities seized educational materials and office equipment, including several computers.

On August 24, authorities began proceedings to shut down GALZ altogether, charging a co-chairperson with running an ‘unregistered’ organization in contravention of the PVO Act.

‘To date this equipment and materials are still in the possession of the Police. We are in the process of trying to have the seized equipment and materials returned. We are working to repair the damage caused during the raid on our premises,’ said a press statement by GALZ.

GALZ also reports that its members are being intimidated and persecuted by the ZRP: ‘GALZ Members report of continued Police visits to their homes and places of work too. Police are calling and threatening members for no apparent reasons. GALZ views this as a disguised attempt to intimidate our members and further isolate them from GALZ services. ‘

GALZ also report that since the raids there is continued surveillance on its office by the ZRP, making it difficult for the staff to resume operations normally. The association therefore announced that the GALZ office will remain ‘closed to minimise the risk of arrests. We continue to work with our Membership. Providing support, counselling, advice and the much-needed services.’ 

The general state in Zimbabwe is increasingly hostile. Last week, in a story broken by GSN, the state media has been actively reporting allegedly false cases to stir up homophobia, in a run up to a constitutional referendum and elections.

Amongst the revisions to the draft constitution, Zanu PF, the country's ruling party, put forward amendments to section 4.36 on Marriage rights and added item (4) stating that same sex marriages will be prohibited.

Last month Zanu PF have alleged that his government partners, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are trying to introduce provisions on gay marriage into the new constitution being drafted.

GALZ explains that there ‘is increased state sanctioned homophobia churned out through state media channels. There is increased focus on the subject of homosexuality and the constitutional process now and at least during the run up to the referendum and elections.

‘LGBT individuals are not the direct target but are being used as an instrument to settle political scores.

‘The safety and security of the LGBTI community in Zimbabwe remains our top priority between now and the culmination of the constitutional and electoral processes in Zimbabwe.

‘GALZ is working to ensure that its members are not exposed to continued intimidation harassment and violence during this period.’

The US State Department and Human Rights Watch have recently called upon the Zimbabwe government to stop their persecution of GALZ and LGBT people.

Male homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe and in 2006 the country’s government amended the law which now states that sodomy is any ‘act involving contact between two males that would be regarded by a reasonable person as an indecent act’, thereby criminalizing even holding hands, hugging, or kissing. 

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