The unfortunate incidents surrounding the “coming out” of a teacher at St John’s College in Zimbabwe lends credence to LGBTI communities claims that, far from being absent from African cultures, homosexuality is deeply embedded in all strata of societies in this country. It is tragic that LGBTI people continue to be hounded and pressured out of employment on account of their sexual orientation.
As the LGBTI Sector in Zimbabwe we do not expect every individual Zimbabwean to embrace LGBTI rights or the issue of homosexuality. But we do expect Zimbabweans to understand and promote the fundamental, inalienable and indivisible nature of human rights, including non-discrimination on the basis of race, gender, tribe, culture and sexual orientation. We are a country beset with a multitude of problems – soaring unemployment, poverty, a flailing economy, cholera and a fragile health service, to name but a few, to devote our time into harassing those of a different sexual orientation.
With the intense climate of homophobia existing in Zimbabwe and the restrictive legislation that makes it difficult for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people to be open about their sexuality and to use public space in safety, coming out is a display of immense courage and boldness. We salute those that are brave to come out and hope that such incidents will inspire us all to come out and celebrate our lives despite the very difficult circumstances we live in.
All LGBTI people in Zimbabwe must be allowed to exercise their constitutional freedoms and rights within the provisions of laws that are compatible with democratic principles. Zimbabwe has made a commitment to inclusion of key populations even in sectors such as health and education hence the St John’s case is detrimental to these commendable efforts.Zimbabwe must break away from the past by aligning to the 2013 constitution, legislation that criminalises same sex relationships and renders minority groups vulnerable to attacks and prejudices. We would like to reaffirm our abhorrence for this harassment that amounts to organised violence against minorities.
When people view LGBTI rights they largely focus on civil and political rights at the expense of social and economic rights . The link between social and economic justice and LGBTI rights, has received considerably less attention.
We should as Zimbabweans acknowledge that civil and political rights cannot be obtained without addressing economic and social rights. We should also challenge cultural traditions and religious fundamentalists that impede on these social and economic rights not only for the LGBTI persons but for every Zimbabwean citizen. As a country that signs on to regional and international instruments that also play a major role in protecting these rights , we should work closely to uphold these commitments. The right to work , the rights of the child , the right to education and the rights to protection from stigma and discrimination are key elements in our Zimbabwean context. Lets not put a cost to social and economic rights but rather enshrine them in our national agenda.
LGBTI individuals who display a personal conviction of not submitting to sham trials and investigations demonstrate the resilient character Zimbabweans generally exhibit in overcoming challenges.
- We call for reform of discriminatory and repressive legislation that criminalises consensual same sex conduct.
- We stand in solidarity with our fellow LGBTI community members and activists/ organisations in support of human rights and respect for all in the education sector.
- To achieve this, we encourage open dialogue and respect of the right to freedom of expression.
- We encourage the various education ministries and public and private stakeholders in the education sector (at all levels) to make learning spaces safe for dialogue to happen.
- We encourage all members of the community to continue to consider their safety and security, as well as both the positive and negative impact, of any decision they may make related to coming out.
- We call on the Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any forms of violence, hate speech, threats and discrimination.
- GALZ (The Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)
- Hands of Hope
- Mothers Haven (MOHA)
- Rise Above Women’s Organisation (RAWO)
- Sexual Rights Centre (SRC)
- Trans and Intersex Rising Zimbabwe (TIRZ)
- Transmart Trust
- Trans* Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT)
- Voice of the Voiceless (VoVo)