With the possibility of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year grip on the southern African nation of Zimbabwe coming to an end, Zimbabwe’s LGBTI community is likely to be among those to welcome the prospect of life without Mugabe.
Mugabe who appears to have an obsession with homosexuality has long been attacking the LGBTI community, vilifying sexual minorities and proclaiming that homosexuality is a Western affliction being imposed on the country, and Africa in general.
Just how homophobic is Mugabe? Under his government, LGBTI people have been the victims of arrest, abuse, persecution, and have been painted as being un-African to their fellow countrymen.
Mugabe who often used homosexuality as an insult and a method of attack opponents often described his opponents as being gay, a strategy that has sadly become a common practice among politicians in Zimbabwe as they fight to succeed their ageing leader.
A few examples of Mugabe’s rampant homophobia over the years include:
- Stating that gay people are “worse than pigs and dogs”, that they “don’t have any human rights at all” and that homosexuality “destroys nations, apart from it being a filthy, filthy disease.”
- In August 1995, he refused to open a human rights-themed International Book Fair in Harare until a stall run by a local LGBT rights group, GALZ, was closed down.
- In 2014, Mugabe expressed his backing for Uganda’s extreme anti-homosexuality law, which was condemned around the world and eventually struck down by the courts. He described the law as “fighting a just fight.”
- Mugabe has also mocked former US President Obama for his support for same-sex marriage, and said, “If it becomes necessary, I shall travel to Washington, D.C., get down on my knee, and ask his hand.” He added, “I can’t understand how this[sic] people dare to defy Christ’s explicit orders as our Lord prohibited mankind from sodomy.”
- Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also been a target for Mugabe. In 2013, he stated at an election rally: “Tutu should just step down because he supports gays, something that is evil. We say no to gays.”
- In September 2015, in another bizarre rant, Mugabe lashed out at LGBT people at the UN General Assembly, proclaiming that LGBTI rights are “contrary to our values, norms, traditions, and beliefs,” defiantly telling world leaders, “We are not gays!”
- Last year in 2016, he used the occasion of his birthday party to lash out at non-existent threats to “force” same-sex marriage onto the country. “Never ever accept that a society can condone marriages of man to man, a woman to woman. The so-called gays; no, they have no place in our society,” he claimed, before adding that if international aid is offered on the basis “that we must accept the principle of gay marriages – then let that aid stay where it is.” (No nation or aid agency has ever made marriage equality a condition in which they will provide aid to Zimbabwe.)
- On his 90th birthday, Mugabe told his guests that gays and lesbians “misuse” their God-given sex organs. “Use your organs properly. If you use them improperly, they will reject you and say ah, you have misused us.”
Currently, in Zimbabwe, gay sexual activity and public affection are illegal, with individuals found guilty of such acts, receiving penalties of up to three years in jail. Same-sex marriage is also illegal and is entrenched in the nations Constitution.
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