Current Affairs

Elections could bring hope for gay Zimbabweans

Tony Grew March 31, 2008
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This weekend’s elections in Zimbabwe bring the prospect of an end to the 28-year rule of one of the world’s most homophobic heads of state.

Robert Mugabe, now 84, has terrorised many groups in his country, not least gays and lesbians.

He has previously described gay people as worse than “dogs and pigs”, has warned against the dangers of homosexuality and threatened pro-gay clergy with prison sentences.

For two people of the same sex to hold hands is against the law.

The eyes of the world are now on Zimbabwe, where opposition politicians are claiming they have ousted Mugabe from office and his Zanu PF party from power.

Despite the fact that polls closed on Saturday evening, there still are no official results from the Presidential election.

There were also elections to the Zimbabwe parliament.

The House of Assembly has 210 members, reports the BBC.

So far only 38 seats have been declared, 19 each for Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change.

The MDC is concerned that the delay in counting is evidence of poll rigging, and the party claim that in the Presidential race their party leader Morgan Tsvangirai has won 60% of the vote and Mr Mugabe 30%.

Government officials claim that as local elections as well as those for Senate, House and President were all held on Saturday the volume of votes to be counted is the reason there are few results so far.

There is concern in London about the delay in declaring the results.

“The eyes of the world will be on Zimbabwe today and tomorrow and I think two things are very important,” said Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“First of all that the election results appear and appear quickly so that people know what’s happening on the ground and nothing is delayed.

“And secondly that the elections are seen to be fair.”

MDC, while not advocates for gay rights, could hardly be worse than the current President.

Mugabe has targeted his country’s small gay population in recent years.

As his country crumbled around him, gay people became an even more victimised group, and he claimed homosexuality was “un-African” and a “white man’s disease.”

He told a cheering crowd of supporters in 2006 that gay marriages are a threat to civilisation and condemned churches that chose to bless same sex relationships.

That same year, as inflation rocketed and the standard of living of a nation once one of the richest in Africa fell to poverty levels, the government made it illegal for two people of the same sex to hug, hold hands or kiss.

Mugabe claimed that police would arrest and jail clergy who performed ceremonies for gay couples in Zimbabwe, despite the fact that all homosexual acts are already illegal.

For more information on life for gay people in Zimbabwe click here.

Campaigner Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group OutRage! attempted to perform a citizens arrest on Mr Mugabe in Brussels in 2001.

Mr Tatchell was beaten unconscious by bodyguards employed by the Zimbabwean leader.

In 2004, Mr Tatchell requested at Bow Streets Magistrates Court for an arrest warrant for the Zimbabwean president over allegations of

brutality, homophobia, and repression of civil rights.

Mr Tatchell documented accounts of political opponents being rounded up and imprisoned. However, the magistrate, Timothy Workman, ruled that Mr Mugabe was entitled to immunity as a head of state.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2001 over allegations of fraud in the Presidential elections.

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