…says political parties should shun away discrimination during campaigns
In a landmark move, the LGBTIQ community in Zimbabwe released a groundbreaking election manifesto that lays out their vision for a more inclusive and equal society. This historic document aims to address the pressing issues faced by the community and eliminate discrimination in all spheres of life.
With the upcoming elections, the LGBTQI community is determined to make their voices heard and push for positive change. The election manifesto serves as a comprehensive blueprint to tackle key areas where the LGBTQI community faces challenges, ranging from political violence and discrimination in the community.
In Zimbabwe, the LGBTQI community is widely stigmatized and seen as a violation of cultural and religious norms. Some people view LGBTQI as a culture imported from Western countries and is a taboo to the morals, and values of the African culture. The history of the LGBTQI community in Zimbabwe is characterized and marred by violence and discrimination which has been attributed to the political discourse of the country.
Zimbabwe’s late President Robert Mugabe issued a string of homophobic statements against LGBTQI. There was a time that he described them as, “…worse than pigs and dogs” whose conduct “…is condemned by nature…” He even issued a statement stating that “Let the Americans keep their sodomy, bestiality, stupid and foolish ways to themselves, out of Zimbabwe.
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) conducted a national survey on the experiences of LGBTQI individuals in Zimbabwe and also compiled annual violation reports that prompted the production of the manifesto. According to the Manifesto which was produced after a survey that brought out the evidence and research on the challenges faced by the LGBTQI community in Zimbabwe 72% of respondents indicated that safety and security were a priority before, during, and after the elections.
“An analysis of GALZ violation reports from 2012 to 2017, which drew data from a total of 170 violations extracted from 104 actual cases, shows that the most common categories of violations are assault (19%), threats (15%), blackmail (15%), and being outed (11%). Some LGBTIQ members have reported voter coercion in rural and peri-urban areas. These violations have had a profound impact on the lives of LGBTQ individuals in Zimbabwe, causing fear, trauma, and in some cases, physical harm. The periods have also been coupled with unlawful detention, disownment, displacement, and invasion of privacy. The number of violations reported is just the tip of the iceberg in relation to the many other incidences that go unreported due to intimidation and fear of discrimination,” reads the Manifesto that was received by this reporter.
Addressing the concerns regarding LGBTQ representation, the manifesto emphasizes the need for increased diversity and inclusion in politics. By doing so, the community hopes for a government that truly represents the diverse voices and experiences of everyone, “leaving no one and no place behind’.
“As the country approaches general elections, it is important to ensure that the voices and concerns of the LGBTQ community are heard and addressed. The Zimbabwe LGBTQ General Elections Manifesto has been developed particularly to provide a platform for the community to express their priorities and expectations from government and political parties regarding LGBTQ issues.
“The manifesto highlights the priority issues facing the LGBTQ community in Zimbabwe and provides policy proposals aimed at addressing these issues. It is grounded in the principles of human rights and seeks to promote and protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals in Zimbabwe. The manifesto is the result of a consultative process that involved engagement with the LGBTQ community, and the Zimbabwe LGBTQ sector parties among other civil society organizations. It is evidence-based and reflects the needs and concerns of the community,” read the Manifesto.
This historic election manifesto serves as a powerful declaration of the LGBTQI community’s collective aspirations and determination to achieve equality and inclusivity. Through their unified voice, the community hopes to create a society where LGBTQI individuals can live without fear of discrimination, access equal opportunities, and be recognised as valued members of the community. As the elections draw near, all eyes will be on how political candidates respond to this historic call for change and progress.
“Work towards implementing policies and proposals that address the priority issues identified by the LGBTIQ community, and ensuring that the human rights of all individuals, including the LGBTQ community, are protected and respected. There is also a need to ensure that there is accountability for any instances of discrimination or violence against LGBTQ individuals during the electoral process, and lastly, there is a need to engage in ongoing consultations with LGBTQ organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that the needs and concerns of the community are being addressed,” said GALZ in the Manifesto.
Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Criminal Law Act 2006, which criminalises acts of ‘sodomy’. The provision carries a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment and a fine. However, there have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBTQI people in recent years including assault, sexual violence, harassment, blackmail, and the denial of basic rights and services. Ryan (not his real name) said the only thing that hurts him more is the violence perpetrated against him in the community.
“The struggles that we encounter are unbearable. People discriminate against us each time. I have had some campaigns where politicians are discriminating against us, and I believe this should end. It is as if we do not have a place in society because there are a lot of people who know about my identity. I have been insulted several times because of my sexuality, the community views me as a non-existent person,” he said.
Speaking in an interview with this reporter Tanatswa Gumbo who is the Information, and Communications Officer for GALZ reiterated the need for political parties to respect the values of inclusivity, and shun away discrimination in their campaigns.
“We are not saying, we should have LGBTQI people in political offices, but we are saying, if an aspiring members of the LGBTQI community seeks to run for office, their sexuality should not be a deterrent. Furthermore, we would like to see an end to election campaigns targeting the LGBTI community to appeal to conservative voters. It is essential that all political candidates and parties adhere to the principles of inclusivity, respect, and non-discrimination throughout the electoral process,” said Gumbo.
There is a need to deal away with the stigma that the LGBTQI community is facing. Politicians should also make sure that they shun away discrimination against LGBTQI during their political campaigns.