Friday, 2 April 2010

Zimbabwe: More confusion over Tsvangeri's position on LGBT rights

Morgan TsvangiraiImage via Wikipedia
By Paul Canning

Last week reported remarks by Zimbabwean Prime Minister and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangiri at a rally alongside President Robert Mugabe seemed to suggest his opposition to proposals that the country's new constitution offer protections for LGBT.

However, according to an open letter released at a press conference Wednesday 31 March by Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Tsvangirai subsequently wrote in his weekly newsletter:
There can be no place in the new Zimbabwe for hate speech or the persecution of any sector of our population based on race, gender, tribe, culture, sexual orientation or political affiliation. All of us are entitled to our own opinions on certain values and beliefs, but in order to move our nation forward and achieve national reconciliation and healing, we have to uphold and foster the fundamental principle of tolerance, including tolerance of people that have chosen to live, believe and vote differently from ourselves.

For too long, many of you, my fellow Zimbabweans, have not had the freedom of choice. Our new constitution shall be the cornerstone of a new society that embraces this particular freedom of choice and tolerance of both majority and minority views.
GALZ and the Human Rights Forum said they have written to Tsvangeri and his party MDC-T seeking clarification of their position on the constitution and declared themselves "concerned" about Tsvangeri's reported comments.
"We urge you not to undermine the dignity of these individuals by making such homophobic statements," they said.

"We call on the principals to desist from making statements likely to promote hate and prejudice. Zimbabwe is going through a transition from a period characterised by hate, violence and economic suffering and moving towards national healing."

"The immediate challenge the nation is facing is overcoming social deprivations in areas such as hunger, health, education, unemployment and violence against women and children and above all the functionality of the GNU [Government of National Unity]. These are the areas in which the Principals in the GNU should be providing leadership; rather than fostering antipathy and intolerance."
A Zimbabwean gay activist Miles Tanhira told Behind The Mask that Tsvangeri's comments were: "the greatest betrayal to my fellows who had hopes that the MDC was some kind of a party of people who know what it feels like to be oppressed, vilified, crucified and subjected to all forms of inhuman treatment."
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