Police should stop harassing the LGBT community

Zimbabwe, which has for the past decade been battling with sprucing up its human rights image, is once again on an overdrive and for the wrong reasons altogether. Since May this year there has been an upward increase in the harassment and arrest of LGBTs by the state. The homophobic tendencies were further entrenched and exacerbated by statements uttered by senior government officials who unashamedly scolded the LGBTs with impunity. The police have not been spared in this 'moment of madness' as they have been at the forefront of propagating homophobia by unilaterally raiding offices of the Gays and lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ).One would have expected that such efforts should have been put towards buttressing the previous efforts by making sure that Zimbabwe is once again welcomed into the family of all nations. But recent acts by the state where there has been arbitrary arrests and harassment of the LGBTs prove to the contrary.

On the 10th of May this year, at a community gathering, Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, Ignatius Chombo, allegedly made the statement  that, "Chiefs are there to protect and promote our cultural values and those who support same-sex marriages must be banished from the communities and dispossessed of their land. €

On the     3rd July, 2012, police summoned Chesterfield Samba, the Director of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) for allegedly undermining the authority of or insulting President Robert Mugabe in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9.23 which stipulates that it is a Criminal offence to insult or mock the President.

During that same month, the police harassed the Director of GALZ, Chesterfield Samba over the operations of GALZ and once again charged him with contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The police claimed that in 2010, GALZ displayed a plaque of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown Jnr in their office in which the African-American denounces President Mugabe's homophobic inclination against gays and lesbians.

On the 11th of August the police raided the offices of GALZ and arrested forty-four members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). The arrests happened at during the launch of the GALZ 'Violations Report' and a briefing on the draft constitution of Zimbabwe. The GALZ members were later released the following day without any charge.

Barely a week after releasing the GALZ members without charge ,more than 20 police officers from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), including some in plain clothes , raided the GALZ offices , rummaged through the offices of the organisation and confiscated computers, Digital Versatile Discs, pamphlets, compact discs and various documents.

President Robert Mugabe describes homosexuality as "madness € and has often said in the past that gays and lesbians are worse than "dogs and pigs €. Since then, President Mugabe has increased the political repression of Zimbabwe's LGBT community, blaming them for many of Zimbabwe's problems.

The South African constitution which is regarded to be the most democratic constitution guarantees the rights of minority groups including those of the LGBTs. Gays and Lesbians live and walk freely in South Africa but with limited constraints.

In Malawi, a Bill is currently in parliament, which seeks to protect LGBTs from homophobia. Zimbabwe should at least embrace the LGBT community in order to deal with homophobic impunity. The current trend where gays and lesbians have become an easy target by the state for no reason should be castigated and halted forthwith. The propensity by the state especially the police to harass and arrest innocent citizens must be condemned. Police must be seen to be protecting citizens instead of becoming chief architects of violence.


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