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Mugabe gay storm escalates

United States-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday said it had written to President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai demanding an immediate stop to the persecution of members of the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ).

The complaint follows numerous raids on GALZ offices in Harare and the arrest of 44 of the group’s members in the past few weeks. In a letter dated August 27 addressed to Mugabe and Tsvangirai, Human Rights Watch appealed to the principals in the inclusive government to intervene.

“This latest police raid on the country’s leading LGBT (lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transgender) group shows the government’s intolerance of the rights of Zimbabwe’s sexual and gender minorities,” said onica Tabengwa, LGBT researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“By intimidating and harassing members of GALZ, the authorities are violating their rights to freedom of expression and association.”

Zanu PF has upped its attacks on homosexuality accusing its inclusive government partners of trying to smuggle provisions on same-sex marriage into the new constitution. Mugabe calls homosexuals “worse than pigs and dogs” and says allowing them to exercise their rights would contaminate local culture.

“In the past decade, Zimbabwean authorities have intensified attacks against members of GALZ, including intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and beatings,” Tabengwa said.

“Mugabe, in office since 1980, has been at the forefront of anti-gay harassment, repeatedly using his office to insult and denigrate gay and lesbian Zimbabweans. He has vowed not to allow the inclusion of LGBT rights in Zimbabwe’s new constitution which is being drafted.

“The August 20 incursion was the second raid on GALZ this month.

“On August 11, police raided the group’s office without a warrant after the group issued its 2011 LGBTI Rights Violations Report and a briefing on the draft constitution.

“During the raid, police briefly detained 44 GALZ members, assaulting them with batons, slaps, and punches.

“A number of injured members needed medical treatment. Police took the names and addresses of all 44 members before releasing them without charge.

“The following week, police went to some of the members’ homes and took them to police headquarters for further questioning.”

Human Rights Watch said the continued harassment of GALZ members was a violation of Zimbabwe’s Constitution and international conventions.

“The government and people of Zimbabwe should consider the ongoing constitution review a critically important opportunity to embrace and promote the human rights of all, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Tabengwa said - Newsday.