Sokwanele (Harare)

21 June 2012

Zimbabwe: The Constitution Process and Sexual Minority Rights in Zimbabwe - SPT

Photo: Umsoto/Flickr/IRIN
President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the government of national unity.

opinion

SPT have an interesting post today on the constitution process and sexual monitory rights in Zimbabwe. This is extracted from a much longer puiece that you can read in full here on the SPT website:

Unsurprisingly, ZANU-PF has shown little enthusiasm for the constitutional process and has sought to derail it by whatever means it can. It lodged no less than 90 objections to the first draft of the constitution, including over such huge political questions as the devolution of power from the national to provincial jurisdictions and limitations on the executive powers of the president. Judging from coverage in the state-controlled (sycophantic) Herald, however, the biggest threat posed to the nation would seem to be "the gays."

On the day of my arrival, a front page story worried about language in the draft that called for no discrimination based on "circumstances of birth." This was a rewording of the original February draft ("natural difference or condition or [...] other status," which had already been rejected by ZANU-PF. The problem? It was too open to interpretation that it included sexual orientation. In case readers didn't get the point, this story was followed by another of a brutal paederastic rape and a warning from visiting American evangelists on how much they love homosexuals as people but hate the sins that homosexuals allegedly commit.

The "circumstances of birth" clause was not the only one to raise the alarm for various ZANU-PF critics. Attack dog Jonathan Moyo, for example, denounced COPAC (despite having ZANU-PF members on it!) for using "trickery and deceit" to sneak gay rights into the constitution against the democratic wishes of the mass of the population. Unlike Zambia's new constitution, for example, the draft does not explicitly define marriage and family as based upon opposite-sex unions only.

COPAC was hence almost inviting "the gays" to use the document's other generous equality and human rights provisions, or its respectful mentions of international obligations, to press their "scandalous" demands. Competing ZANU-PF factions are meanwhile assiduously courting traditional chiefs and popular evangelical Christian leaders using barely coded language of hate that would be prohibited under the proposed constitution's definition of what would not allowed under freedom of speech.

As it happens, gay marriage is not a priority for GALZ, which also adamantly rejects any connection between sexual minority rights and pederasty, rape and bestiality, common misleading associations made by its enemies. GALZ further rejects the notion of gay rights (that is, rights specific to lgbti). It insists, rather, that all it seeks are equal protections against discrimination, violence, and hate speech to those offered (at least theoretically) to the rest of the citizenry. To that extent, the present draft of the constitution is promising.

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President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the government of national unity.

The final revision of the draft constitution - promising reform and transparency - has been completed and will be officially launched next week. Read more »