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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Does Zimbabwe's opposition support gay rights?

By Paul Canning

Zimbabwe's opposition MDC-T has denied it supports protections for LGBT people in the country's new constitution.

The MDC-T submission to the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), made last October, says, under the Bill of Rights section, that:
In addition, the right to freedom from discrimination, given our history of discrimination and intolerance, must be broad to include the protection of personal preferences, that is gays and lesbians should be protected by the constitution.
But after a ongoing internal, media and Zanu-PF backlash in a statement issued Monday 15 March they now describe claims of gay rights support as "false and malicious".

Further, the statement says:
For the record it is well-known that homosexuality is practised in Zanu PF where senior officials from that party have been jailed while others are under police probe on allegations of sodomy. “It is in Zanu PF where homosexuality is a religion,” the MDC said. “It is well-known that a senior Zanu PF official, Canaan Sodindo Banana, may his soul rest in peace, was a practitioner in homosexuality.”
They denied that the party’s Constitution principles make an explicit reference to gays and lesbians.
 “Clearly the story was written by someone who did not read the MDC’s principles or read them but was too shallow to understand them,” the party said. The media report that the MDC is in support of gay rights is totally wrong and misleading. Nowhere in our principles document is there any reference to gays and lesbians.
When the MDC-T draft proposals were published in October some MDC-T MPs immediately went to the state media to complain that the new draft constitution "was not crafted by the MDC but by other unknown, shadowy and sinister forces."

Zanu-PF have proposed specific anti-gay provisions in the new constitution saying in its 'thematic talking points' that:
“. . . we should not allow same-sex marriages as this is taboo in African culture and traditions. The Bible also forbids same-sex marriages. The constitution should specifically outlaw homosexuality, lesbianism, sodomy, etc.”
Like the discussion on Kenya's new constitution, the NCA has also been accused of somehow including gay rights in the new constitution because the 'family and marriage' section does not explicitly confirm marriage as between 'a man and a woman'.

Government newspaper The Sunday Mail quoted "a human rights activist who declined to be identified" as saying:
“The NCA is hiding behind a finger by refusing to explicitly mention marriage to the opposite sex. The vagueness is by design. They are aware they will incur the full wrath of Zimbabweans who vehemently oppose homosexuality if they clearly spell it out.”
Echoing claims made in Uganda and other African countries the Mail also claimed that the MDC-T is "under pressure from its [foreign] donors wishing to promote homosexuality".

President Robert Mugabe has previously and repeatedly attacked LGBT people, calling them "lower than pigs and dogs… Animals in the jungle are better than these people because at least they know that this is a man or a woman... I don't believe they have any rights at all."
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