Zimbabwe’s LGBT community hopes Mnangagwa will decriminalise homosexuality

Zimbabwe is one of several African countries that do not acknowledge the rights of queer bodies. But members of Zimbabwe’s queer community are hopeful that the country’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa will decriminalise homosexuality.

Zimbabwe’s constitution, which was adopted in 2013, bans same-sex relationships. The country’s former president, Robert Mugabe, has repeatedly said that gay rights are not human rights and that homosexuality is un-African and a Western concept. Mnangagwa has also in the past made homophobic remarks. ln 2016, he rejected calls by the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group to decriminalise homosexuality in the country, saying homosexuality was unlawful in the country. But his stance appears to have softened. After being sworn in as president, Mnangagwa promised to ensure that every citizen in the country is safe and would “enjoy a sense of belonging in their land”.

Zimbabwean queer rights organisation, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz), said it was thrilled with Mugabe’s resignation and hopes that the newly elected president will protect the rights of the LGBTQI community and lift bans on homosexuality.

Tinashe Shona*, a 21-year-old from the Zimbabwean capital Harare said he is hopeful that Mnangagwa will lift the ban on homosexuality, although it may take time. “Many of our parents are still under the impression that being homosexual is wrong and a disgrace to our culture, so we first have to change those perceptions before making any legal changes, which sounds challenging,” he said. Tendayi Muzenda* said the new president will need to look at changing the mindset and discrimination of homosexuality in communities.

However 21-year-old Denai Majome*, said he was not hopeful that Mnangagwa would decriminalise homosexuality, because Mnangagwa still holds homophobic views. “He has made harsh comments about gay people and how immoral it was, so I don’t think his views have changed nor do I think he will lift bans on homosexuality,” he said.

*Names have been changed