Zimbabwe is one of several African countries that do not acknowledge the rights of queer bodies. But members of Zimbabwe’s queer community are hopeful that the country’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa will decriminalise homose xuality.
Zimbabwe’s constitution, which was adopted in 2013, bans same se x relationships. The country’s former president, Robert Mugabe, has repeatedly said that gay rights are not human rights and that homose xuality is unAfrican and a Western concept. Mnangagwa has also in the past made hom ophobic remarks.
In 2016, he rejected calls by the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group to decriminalise homose xuality in the country, saying homose xuality was unlawful in the country. But his stance appears to have softened. After being sworn in as president, Mnangagwa promised to ensure that every citizen in the country is safe and would “enjoy a sense of belonging in their land”.
Zimbabwean queer rights organisation, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz), said it was thrilled with Mugabe’s resignation and hopes that the newly elected president will protect the rights of the LGBTQI community and lift bans on homose xuality.
Tinashe Shona*, a 21-year-old from the Zimbabwean capital Harare said he is hopeful that Mnangagwa will lift the ban on homose xuality, although it may take time.
“Many of our parents are still under the impression that being homose xual is wrong and a disgrace to our culture, so we first have to change those perceptions before making any legal changes, which sounds challenging,” he said. Tendayi Muzengi* said the new president will need to look at changing the mindset and discrimination of homose xuality in communities.
However 21-year-old Denai Majoni*, said he was not hopeful that Mnangagwa would decriminalise homose xuality, because Mnangagwa still holds homophobic views. “He has made harsh comments about gay people and how immoral it was, so I don’t think his views have changed nor do I think he will lift bans on homose xuality,” he said.
*Names have been changed