A NEWLY formed organisation fighting for the rights of lesbians in Zimbabwe has said it was struggling to be accepted by women's rights lobby with many in the movement regarding them as outcast.
In an exclusive interview with NewZimbabwe.com at a Harare hideout place where hundreds of members gathered to celebrate Homophobia Day, the Director of Pakasipiti Patience Mandishona said local lesbians had struggled for years to get acceptance by women's rights movement.
"Some women's organisations feel they are not yet ready to talk about lesbians' rights," said Mandishona.
"The women's groups say they have fought their own battles and achieved what they wanted and that the time is not right to be adding another cause and speaking about lesbian rights.
"But all I can say is that we have had engagements with some young women's organisations and they are prepared to start speaking out on these thorny issues, including sex workers, abortion, lesbian and bisexual rights."
Mandishona said they decided to form Pakasipiti in order to challenge power structures within the women's movement.
She said there was need for the women's movement to start speaking about lesbian rights and give the subject the same prominence as other issues such as gender-based violence.
However, activist and long-time campaigner for women's rights, Tarry Tandi, said it would take time for the new organisation to be embraced considering what society generally thinks about gays and lesbians.
"For the women's movement to accept and take note of issues that lesbians want addressed it will be very, very difficult looking at the environment that they are operating in," said Tandi.
"But it also needs aggressiveness from the lesbians to actually claim their space and advance their cause and realise their rights."
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) member Jeremiah Bhamu said the new Constitution had however, created sufficient room for the protection of greater human rights for all the communities.
"One of the issues that arise from the new Constitution is the obligation of the courts take into account all international laws and treaties to which Zimbabwe is signatory," Bhamu said.
"If that happens then it means all international instruments that relate to minority groups can be evoked to ensure their protection."
Pakasipiti's message is that "justice can and must triumph over hatred and prejudice. It is time to reaffirm our commitment to the equality and dignity of all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity".