Zimbabwe: Transgender Woman Wins Case Against Home Affairs, Police

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17 November 2019

THE High Court in Bulawayo, Thursday ordered the Minister of Home Affairs and the police to pay Bulawayo based trans- woman and activist, Ricky Eugene Nathanson (53) $400 000 as compensation for her unlawful arrest in 2004.

Nathanson was arrested for allegedly using a ladies toilet at a city hotel. Police mistook Nathanson who was wearing a make-up to be a male.

Justice Francis Bere ordered the defendant to pay her $400 000 although she had claimed US$2, 7 million.

"The quantification of damages is not meant to enrich the victim but to try and salvage some kind of dignity for the pain endured by the victim," ruled Justice Bere.

The court said the plaintiff's arrest was a violation of her constitutional right as a citizen.

"For three days, the plaintiff (Nathanson) in this case was not only deprived of her liberty but was subjected to forced anatomical examination in the most crude and naked manner by adventurous members of the police.

"As if that was not enough, she was then subjected to further invasive examination by two doctors at two different medical institutions all because of her transgender status, something that she did not invite upon herself," ruled Justice Bere.

In his ruling, Justice Bere said transgender citizens were part of the Zimbabwean society whose rights ought to be recognised as the Constitution does not provide for their discrimination.

Nathanson was represented by Advocate Perpetua Dube who was instructed by Phulu and Ncube Legal Practitioners.

Cited as respondents were Home Affairs Minister at the time (Ignatius Chombo) Police Commissioner General (then Augustine Chihuri), then ZRP Bulawayo Central Chief Inspector Enock Masimba and Farai Mteliso, the person who reported her to the police leading to her arrest on charges of criminal nuisance, were cited as defendants.

Nathanson was arrested in a bar on January 16, 2014 by six police officers in riot gear and taken to Bulawayo Central Police Station. She was detained for 48 hours before being taken to court.

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